Italy's 5-Star members vote over Draghi as political crisis nears end

Draghi says he has enough support to form Italy’s new government

Former European Central Bank President Mario Draghi arrives for a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, at the Quirinale Palace, in Rome, on February 3, 2021.

The Italian president swore in the former chief of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, as prime minister on Saturday at the head of a unity government called on to confront the Covid-19 crisis and economic slump.

However, some key posts went to non-affiliated technocrats, including Daniele Franco, director general of the Bank of Italy, who was named as economy minister, and Roberto Cingolani, a physicist and IT expert, who was handed the new role of minister for green transition.

Ending weeks of political crisis, Mr Draghi and his Cabinet ministers took their oaths of office in a ceremony at the Quirinal presidential palace in front of President Sergio Mattarella.

Mattarella gave Draghi a mandate to form a government last week after outgoing Premier Giuseppe Conte's executive collapsed.

Nicknamed "Super Mario", Mr Draghi has significant support... for now.

Draghi unveiled his cabinet line-up yesterday evening, comprising members of all but one of Italy's main parties and covering a wide political spectrum, from right to left.

The cabinet features four politicians from the populist Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S), three each from the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD), Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI) and Matteo Salvini's right-wing Lega, and one each from Matteo Renzi's centrist Italia Viva (IV) and the left-wing LeU group.

The members of the M5S, the biggest group in parliament, voted to back the government by a majority of around 60% to 40%.

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He also reportedly promised to create a powerful ministry for ecological transition, a move that helped win over support from 5-Star for whom environmentalism is a core concern.

Italy has high hopes for its new leader, who himself has no political power base but can count on his experience during years working in the Italian civil service, as well as his banking career.

His arrival was greeted with delight by the financial markets, and Italy's borrowing costs dropped to a historic low this week.

The economy shrank by a staggering 8.9 per cent previous year, while Covid-19 remains rife and restrictions including a night curfew and the closure of bars and restaurants in the evening remain in place.

The country is at a critical juncture as it battles both the medical and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, which struck Italy first outside of Asia nearly exactly one year ago.

Eager to have some role in deciding how Italy will spend some 209 billion euros of European Union recovery funds, politicians from parties that have spent years demonising each other set aside differences and agreed to join a Draghi government.

It is Italy's worst recession since World War II.

But disputes over how to spend the money, between demands for longstanding structural reform and short-term stimulus, brought down the previous government.

Italy is due to return to the polls in two years time, but it is far from certain that Draghi will be able to survive that long at the head of a coalition that includes parties with radically opposing views on issues such as immigration, justice, infrastructure development and welfare.

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