Dalle Stelle alle Stalle - The Steps that Led to the Fall of Draghi’s Government in Italy
In merely two months, Italy experienced a government crisis, a fast and chaotic electoral campaign, and the election of the most right-wing government since the Second World War. But what exactly has happened? This article offers an overview of the developments that recently occurred in Italian politics, thereby providing readers with a comprehensive understanding of the Italian government crisis.
We Used to Be Friends: How Internal Divisions Led to the Crisis
To understand the crisis of the Italian government, which officially started on the 14th of July 2022, we need to understand what happened within the party that first triggered the crisis, namely the Five Stars Movement (M5S). The M5S is a political force that met its greatest success with the national elections of 2018, when it won 32.2% of votes at the Senate and 32.7% votes at the Chamber of Deputies. This allowed the movement to be part of all three governments that have succeeded one another since 2018. The first two governments were led by Giuseppe Conte, who was then also elected President of the M5S, replacing the party’s previous leader Luigi Di Maio. Since then, the tensions between these two key political figures have been increasing. The breaking point was reached on the 21st of June 2022, when Di Maio formally left the M5S to form a new parliamentary group called Together for the Future. Different factors led to this split, but what appeared to be the main cause of division was the increasing critical attitude adopted by the M5S towards the government led by Mario Draghi. The M5S was growing increasingly dissatisfied with the line of the government, and especially with the decision to continue sending weapons to aid Ukraine in the war against the Russian invasion.
Shooting Stars: How the Five Stars Movement Triggered the Crisis
On the 6th of July 2022, the M5S provided Draghi with a list of nine points covering the themes and policies deemed most important by the movement. Conte declared that, if Draghi had refused to accept such points, the M5S would have withdrawn its support to the government. However, it is clear that a ‘government of national unity,’ as the one led by Draghi was called, could not exist without the major political force in the Parliament. At the same time, Draghi clearly stated that a government cannot be based on an ultimatum; it needs the will of its members to continue working together. A will which was gradually weakening.
Finally, the moment of reckoning came with the vote on the Decreto Aiuti (Aid Decree), which was associated with a confidence motion. The Parliament had to vote on whether it would continue to support Draghi’s government until the elections scheduled for the spring of 2023. On the 14th of July 2022, when the vote was taking place in the Senate, all senators from the M5S refused to express their vote either in favour or against the government. At that point, the government crisis was on.
To Resign or not to Resign: Draghi’s Attempt to Maintain the National Unity
As soon as the government lost the support of the major component of the Parliament, Draghi handed in his resignation to the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella.
The President, however, refused to accept Draghi’s resignation, and he encouraged him to once again seek the support of the parliamentary majority. Hence, on the 20th of July 2022, Draghi spoke in front of the Senate to ask for a new and sincere confidence pact, one that would enable the government to continue its efforts to lead the country. During his speech, the Prime Minister recalled the many achievements reached by the government, highlighted the will to continue supporting Ukraine and to oppose the Russian invasion, and depicted an image of the European Union as a home for Italy and its people.
With 95 votes in favour and 38 against, Draghi’s government obtained the confidence of the Senate. Why, then, did he decide to resign once again? The reason can be found, loud and clear, in his speech. Draghi was not elected by the Italian people, he was nominated by President Mattarella to lead Italy in a moment of severe crisis, when having anticipated elections would have been extremely costly. A government that is not the result of the citizens’ vote needs the greatest possible support by the Parliament in order to prove its democratic legitimacy. Therefore, when the senators from the M5S declared themselves ‘present but not voting,’ and when the representatives from Lega and Forza Italia did not participate in the vote, the national unity that had characterised Draghi’s government was gone.
The Prime Minister’s second resignation was accepted by the President on the 21st of July 2022. This threw Italy into the next phase of the political process, a rushed electoral campaign that led to the vote held just a few days ago, on the 25th of September.
DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 25JAN13 - Mario Draghi, President, European Central Bank, Frankfurt is captured during the special address session at the Annual Meeting 2013 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 25, 2013. Copyright by World Economic Forum
In two months, the Italian political landscape completely changed. Italian citizens have now called to govern the country the only party that, during Draghi’s government of national unity, remained in the opposition. Brothers of Italy, which obtained 4.3% of votes in 2018, reached a striking 26% in the recent elections, and its leader Giorgia Meloni is likely to become the new Italian Prime Minister. Consequently, Brothers of Italy is now the main political force in the Parliament, and it is set on shaping Italian politics for years to come.