Italy: The “Draghi Short Circuit” in Italian Politics | International

The problem and the solution to the challenges of the times to come in Italy bear the same name: Mario Draghi. The current President of the Council of Ministers would see no harm in being President of the Republic. Or at least he didn’t deny it, like he did seven years ago when his name came up. “I am a grandfather in the service of the Republic,” he slipped when asked about it a few weeks ago. It is a prestigious name, which is unanimous and which has all the qualities to be so. This is the solution for the next seven years at the Quirinal Palace, whose president is elected from January 24. The problem is that his appointment – it would be the first time that a Prime Minister has had direct access to the Presidency of the Republic – would leave vacant a position for which no one is able to find a replacement and could cause a short circuit which would put end with snap elections and a return to classic Italian turbulence. More and more voices are calling on him to stay where he is: inside and outside Italy.

The legislature is not over (a year and a half are missing) and there are still reforms to be carried out. Also the start of the deployment of the recovery plan with European funds – from Brussels, what Italy can do with the more than 200,000 million euros allocated is closely monitored – and the new phase of the battle against covid -19. Draghi himself, who has given stability and international credibility to the country this year, highlighted some of these challenges during last Monday’s press conference. But nobody knows if in two weeks he will still be Prime Minister of Italy, if the government will fall or if everything will continue exactly as it is (it would happen because the current head of state, Sergio Mattarella, agreed to extend his mandate to 80 years, as more and more voices demand).

The uncertainty, for the first time in a year, is total. There are small signals from abroad and the risk premium has increased by 30 points since October. The former ECB president, a master at sensing changing market moods, alleges that the legislature will continue whether or not he leads the executive. But it seems complicated. All the more so if we witness the need for certain partners of this government, like Matteo Salvini, to mark their own profile, by distancing themselves from the unitary line of recent months. Especially if Draghi, who was approached a year ago for his enormous prestige and his impartiality, is no longer the unifying force of this majority.

Parliamentarians are increasingly convinced that the solution to avoiding chaos – or the fall of the executive – is to convince Mattarella to extend his mandate. “The fundamental problem is that Draghi will not be able to find a replacement to calmly end the legislature. If you choose a technician as Minister of the Economy [Daniele Franco] it will appear that he wants to drive you out of the Quirinal. And a politician will be difficult for the rest of the parties to accept. So voting for him would mean going to the elections. And parliamentarians, the majority of whom would not double after this legislature, are not willing to commit suicide cheerfully, ”says a veteran and expert deputy from the Democratic Party.

Mattarella has already publicly stated that he does not want to repeat. But those around him have been pointing out to him for months that if the situation was extreme and endangered the smooth running of the country, he could consider extending his mandate for some time in the service of the Republic.

The latest to demand that the current Prime Minister remain in office was Silvio Berlusconi, who now threatens to become an agent of chaos if his wishes are not granted. Il Cavaliere insisted on being President of the Republic and absolutely no one around him dares to tell him that it might not be a good idea. He is 85 years old, has gone through several legal proceedings (some are still ongoing) and weighs on his biography a firm conviction and a disqualification for tax evasion. At first, most took it as a fanciful assumption that brought late 20th century flavor to current politics. Today, however, it has become a monumental problem for the right-wing coalition (Liga, Forza Italia and Brothers of Italy), which risks disintegrating as Il Cavaliere tries at all costs to gain support.

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Berlusconi activated his machinery and moved to Rome on Tuesday to campaign – he is the first in the history of the Republic to do so brazenly – and seduce potential undecided parliamentarians from other parties. Beyond its name, the right has no other clear candidate at the moment. He doesn’t allow it. But none of his associates want him, including many members of Forza Italia. The problem is that the triple Prime Minister has already issued the threats. If they do not propose it, he will break the coalition, they assure around him. And if Draghi was finally chosen, he launched on Monday afternoon, he would cause a tsunami within the unity executive, pushing aside the three ministers of his party and creating a difficult situation of balance which would lead to early elections.

In the ranks of the League and the Brothers of Italy are beginning to grow impatient. “It’s a huge problem for the centre-right,” said one of the coalition’s heavyweights. “He’s stubborn and wants to do it at all costs, but it’s an absurd idea. Now he’s blackmailing us that if we don’t support him, he’ll blow up the coalition. And on Monday he also dared to extort money. money to Draghi”, insists this parliamentarian. “It generated a huge blockade. And if he were president, it would be a problem, also for the center-right and for the country. Imagine the risk premium… But unfortunately you you have possibilities. At the moment there is a Parliament full of people who will not repeat themselves and who are ready to listen to your proposal”.

The members of the two Chambers meet in Montecitorio (the Chamber of Deputies) from February 24. There are 950 parliamentarians plus senators for life. All under rules that allow lengthening To infinity the daily votes – it is not yet known whether there will be a vote on Saturday and Sunday as well – to reach an agreement and in which the quorum necessary decreases as one progresses unsuccessfully towards the election of the candidate. In the first three, you need two thirds: that is 673 parliamentarians out of 1,008. From the fourth, serve only half plus one. This is where the surprises can come.

Berlusconi’s entourage believes they can count on numbers, especially if they manage to fish in the mixed group and the ranks of the disgruntled 5-Star Movement. And the reality is that the blockade situation, added to the losses that may occur due to covid on voting days, can benefit you.

A vote threatened by the covid

The ritual of the election of the President of the Republic is one of the most colorful and important institutional ceremonies in Italy. The parliamentarians of the two chambers, added to the regional representatives, march through the Chamber of Deputies in a daily vote until the necessary quorum is reached – two thirds in the first three rounds and an absolute majority in the others -.

The Constitution is strict in terms and does not allow the date to be postponed once it has been set by the President of the Chamber of Deputies. The problem is that the number of covid infections in Italy is skyrocketing and it is expected that around 10% of the 1,008 parliamentarians summoned will have to be absent on one of the days during which it extends.

Camera officials have not established an alternative at this time. Solutions like some kind of hotel for positives with the right to vote or telematic suffrage have been proposed in the media, but it does not seem that they will prosper.

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