Mario Draghi signals his desire to remain Prime Minister in a speech to the Senate


ROME — As his government falters, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi signaled on Wednesday his willingness to remain in charge provided his coalition can recommit to acting coherently and competently.

“We need a new pact of trust – sincere and concrete,” Draghi said in a speech to the Senate. “Are you ready to rebuild this pact?

That response is expected to unfold later on Wednesday, as parliamentarians decide whether to maintain their unity government or back down, with fresh elections likely to result. The day will end with either a vote of confidence in favor of broad support for the government or the resignation of Draghi which he demanded last week when he had had enough of a party revolt.

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For Italy, a nation with notoriously unstable governments, keeping Draghi at the helm would show the desire for stability at a time of inflation, ongoing reforms, budget decisions and extreme drought in the north of the country. It would also allow Europe to retain one of its most respected leaders as it tries to maintain unity with Russia in the face of energy shortages.

But Draghi, even if he stays, remains a short-term leader: Italy must hold elections no later than early next year.

The question for Draghi is whether he wants to keep his coalition going for several more months. The question for the parties is whether they want to stay in a popular unity government as a whole but which has benefited little from its individual members.

Giuseppe Conte, the leader of the vaguely populist and founding Five Star Movement, argued with Draghi and said his group’s priorities were being ignored. Right-wing party leaders are confident they could win power whenever Italy holds a vote, prompting them to call for snap elections.

In his speech to the Senate, raising his voice at times, Draghi celebrated the government’s work in helping Italy through the acute phases of the pandemic emergency and, more recently, in scrambling to secure alternative energy sources to the middle of the war. But he noted that in recent months political parties have shown a growing desire to distinguish themselves, which has led to divisions, including a decision last week by the Five Star Movement to boycott a parliamentary vote.

“The desire to move forward together gradually faded,” Draghi said.

When Draghi visited the presidential palace last week and offered his resignation to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, many experts believed that Draghi had determined that the fractures were irreparable and that he did not want to participate in the conduct of a chaotic government to the finish line. But Mattarella rejected Draghi’s resignation and sent him back to parliament, giving him some time to rethink the issue while the sides held talks.

In the meantime, Draghi has received many pleas to stay a bit longer, including from more than 2,000 mayors in a petition. Polls show that two-thirds of Italians want Draghi to stay. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wrote an op-ed in Politico saying “Europe needs leaders like Mario”.

Each time Draghi leaves office, it will usher in major changes in Rome: any election would favor a group of centre-right and far-right parties that are likely to coalesce. Some of these parties have held Eurosceptic and pro-Russian views in the past, although it is unclear what approach they would take in power. Giorgia Meloni, whose nationalist Brothers of Italy party is the most popular in Italy and is the only opposition group, backed Ukraine against Russia.

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