Analysis

ANALYSIS - What lies next for Italy?

Draghi era seems to have officially ended. Once again, the country has to deal with instability, a factor that became congenital in the political DNA of the Italian system

Dr. Valeria Giannotta   | 27.07.2022
ANALYSIS - What lies next for Italy?

The writer is a political scientist and foreign policy expert. She is the scientific director of the Turkey Observatory at the Centre for Politics and International Studies, based in Rome.

ISTANBUL

In Italy, the Draghi era seems to have officially ended. Once again, the country has to deal with instability, a factor that became congenital in the political DNA of the Italian system. The collapse of the grand coalition government led by Mario Draghi was almost entirely unexpected, and it is attributable mainly to the individual interests of some political opponents. Hence, on September 25, the Italians will be called to the polls. This vote will be crucial not only because it takes place in a peculiar moment for the international conjuncture and its internal repercussions but also because it could open the way to a new right-oriented synthesis.

Disappointments in politics and the economy

“Ah, Italy enslaved, embodiment of misery, ship without helmsman in a great storm.” [1]

With these verses centuries ago, the great writer Dante Alighieri described the condition of Italy, which was subject to chaos and instability in his Divine Comedy. Beyond the poetic tone, those words could perhaps be interpreted as a prophecy: the political instability of Italy is the core element of its domestic dynamics. However, with Mario Draghi's rise to power in 2021 and the formation of a great coalition government, there was a broad positive perception of a renewed political tenure, intended as a useful tool for emerging from the pandemic crisis by initiating the necessary reforms, as foreseen by the European Recovery Plan, and marking essential steps for a full recovery, both economically and in terms of international credibility.

Unfortunately, more recently, the same grand coalition set up by the former president of the European Central Bank has lost the support of the 5-star movement (5sM) and its leader Giuseppe Conte, who has never been able to digest the ouster from power and the passage of witnesses to Draghi. Due to the scratch, the prime minister had already aired the hypothesis of resignation to President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, who rejected it, supporting an ultimate attempt to put the pieces together and continue with the mandate.

Although it was billed as a “civil miracle”, not long ago, the Draghi government began to lose support for some reforms: the 5sM was the architect bounced a vote of confidence over a €26 billion aid package for firms and households struggling with inflation and high energy bills. The casus belli also refers to the construction of an incinerator on the outskirts of Rome, which the Movement opposed, citing environmental causes. Nevertheless, many supported Draghi's stay in power. In his speech to the Senate, he clearly stated, “The only way, if we still want to stay together, is to rebuild the coalition pact from scratch, with courage, altruism, credibility.”

It is the Italian people who, above all, ask for it. At this call to the parties to express the will to rebuild their pact of trust towards the government, the outcome was instead nefarious. The government survived the vote with 95 in favor and 38 against, but politically was not enough as just 133 senators, out of a 321-member chamber, took part in it. Matteo Salvini's League substantially boycotted the vote, Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy. They, to some extent, supported the cause of the 5sM, opposing the possibility of forming a government without them.

Domestic conjuncture and international perception

The rupture takes place at a very sensitive moment for Italy, which is called to respect the reformist obligations in line with the 200 billion-euro commitment assumed with the European post-pandemic recovery plan. Furthermore, the Italian economy is in a phase of fragility: as an effect of the war in Ukraine and related energy crisis, no rosy times seem to be on the horizon. Also, given the increase in inflation, there is a slowdown in growth and high levels of public debt.

Apart from the internal bewilderment of some sectors of society that perceived Draghi’s technical government as the last hope in reforms and international revitalization of Italy, due to his firm pro-European and Atlantist inclination, it has also registered at the international level a certain discontent. The newspaper "Le Monde" published an editorial stating that "the collapse of the coalition in power in Rome from 2021 places not only the country but also the euro area and the whole EU in an area of severe economic and geopolitical turbulence" with the headline "The end of Draghi era is a shock for all of Europe."

Challenges Italy and the Eurozone face are not small

The Italian political crisis came close to the European Central Bank (ECB) meeting, which is currently trying to limit the increase in inflation caused by the war in Ukraine. It is no coincidence that the day after Draghi's resignation, the ECB raised interest rates by half a point. It was the first hike since July 2011, with the prime rate rising to 0.50%, the deposit rate to zero and the marginal lending rate to 0.75%. Therefore, the challenges Italy and the Eurozone face are not small.

“Super Mario”, as he has been called in Europe, is known for having invested heavily in the holding of the Euro and the stability of the Eurozone when he was the head of the European Central Bank. His firm Euro-Atlantist vocation has undermined the layout of the former yellow-green government and reduced Italy’s energy dependence on Russia. Those are the main issues for the Italians, who still have to deal with the resumption of COVID-19 cases and problems related to inflation and price increases.

While defections and crises are also recorded within the parties which have discouraged the Draghi government as a sign of protest against the general attitude of right groups, the horizon of the September 25 snap elections is perceived as a triumph by Salvini's League and by Meloni's Brothers of Italy.

The right-wing parties seem to have a good chance of victory because of their populist spirit and anti-migrant and income redistribution inclination. It remains to be seen how far they can pursue and complete the reformist agenda initiated by Draghi, honoring his obligations within Europe and to the Italians.

[1] Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, Purgatory, canto VI, vv. 76-78.

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.​​​​​​​

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