Italy’s popular Prime Minister Mario Draghi was on the brink on Wednesday after three parties refused to back him, foiling efforts to resolve a crisis now expected to lead to his resignation and snap elections.
Italian media reported that Draghi was now expected to offer his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella on Thursday.
The decision by three parties — Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, the anti-immigrant League and populist Five Star Movement — to sit out the vote meant Draghi’s bid to revive his beleaguered coalition failed.
The actions of “irresponsible” parties risked “creating a perfect storm,” EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said on Twitter, adding that Italy faced “difficult months ahead”.
Draghi had warned the Senate that now was not the time for uncertainty, amid a myriad of challenges, from a struggling economy and soaring inflation to the Ukraine war.
– ‘Day of madness’ –
But the League and Forza Italia said it was impossible to recover trust lost after a crisis sparked by Five Star’s decision to opt out of a confidence vote last week.
“On this day of madness, parliament decided to turn against Italy,” Enrico Letta, head of the centre-left Democratic Party, said on Twitter.
Polls in the lead up to Wednesday’s drama suggested most Italians wanted Draghi, 74, to stay at the helm until the scheduled general election in May next year.
“Draghi’s possible departure would be a significant blow for Italy and for the EU ahead of a difficult winter,” said Luigi Scazzieri of the Centre for European Reform.
– ‘Not easy’ –
His coalition had been able “to put aside divisions and come together… for rapid and effective action, for the good of all citizens”.
Draghi had “scolded his coalition partners for infighting and point-scoring” over the past few months and laid out a government line that “contains measures that either the League or the Five Star Movement firmly oppose”, Teneo consultancy’s Wolfango Piccoli said in a note.
Anxious investors were watching closely. The spread — the difference between 10-year Italian and German treasury bonds — widened to 215 points by market close.