Policy ambiguity dissolves deal with Draghi

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«The duration of governments in Italy has been on average short» Mario Draghi stressed in his debut speech in the Senate for the vote of confidence, but this «has not prevented, at even dramatic moments in the nation’s life, decisive choices being made for the future of our children and grandchildren».

That time was limited was clear from the outset even to the former head of the ECB: on the one hand, the ordinary end of the legislature, on the other, the varied as well as precarious balance of forces-vowed to sign as much as to dissolve government pacts as much for reasons of numbers as for issues related to the different interests represented-willing to give life to the third executive of the legislature.

In a tripolized Parliament overwhelmed by pandemic pathos and that had by then squandered all its creative capital with every possible combination first with the yellow-green mélange then by mixing yellow with red, the step from the lawyer of the Italians to the banker of the Europeans was short. As short was Draghi’s tenure at Palazzo Chigi, 552 days, the 20th longest government in all of Republican history – Conte I lasted 461 days, Conte II 527.

Not even the world’s most respected Italian was enough to bring peace to one of the world’s most intolerant parliaments, which since 1946 has seen 67 governments paraded and 29 prime ministers given the vote of confidence. Average duration 14 months. The longest-lived, for lovers of political statics were those of Cav. Silvio Berlusconi who managed to ride the boot for 1,412 days between 2001 and 2005 and for 1,287 days between 2008 and 2011, third that of Bettino Craxi with 1,093 days.

Unlike most of his predecessors, Mario Draghi has been willing (or able) to do very little to prolong his stay in the Chigi palace by subverting, in the face of the irreconcilability between agenda and palace moods, the Andreotti maxim of dragging his feet. Better to pull his heels than to dismantle from the ground up the pact of trust signed during one of the “dramatic moments” in the life of this nation.

In fact, the call for a new pact, forwarded in the last speech to the Senate, is inscribed in a well-defined perimeter, either all forces or none, the agenda is not dismantled. On the other hand, the former banker was summoned to the Quirinal with specific tasks: to complete the vaccination campaign, to center the goals of the NRRP, to boost the economy and to restore Italy’s confidence in the world. On this he cashed the confidence of Parliament.

In the 18 months of government, new elements have been added to the initial context: the war in Ukraine, the rising cost of energy, the specter of inflation, and not least the volatility of voting opinions. Just enough to inflame political forces on the sidelines of an election round that will see the newly elected sit in a Parliament downsized after the referendum.

The origin of the parties’ ambiguities lies on the one hand in the fear of losing further consensus, and on the other in cashing in on what they currently have accumulated. The 5-Star Movement was the first force to show signs of discontent; the split with the Insieme per il Futuro governors led by Foreign Minister Di Maio was an early sign. It was a move that liberated and convinced Pentastellati leader Conte to up the ante, triggering the short-circuit, preferring the fighting option to the governing option.

The governing center-right, by rejecting the composition of a new pact with the Pentastellati, seized the opportunity of the crisis to move to the electoral box, avoiding losing consensus to Fratelli d’Italia, the only party free to capitalize in opposition. A choice, that of not giving confidence to Draghi, not painless for Forza Italia, which witnessed the abandonment of ministers Renato Brunetta (Public Administration), Maria Stella Gelmini (Regional Affairs and Autonomies) and Mara Carfagna (South and Territorial Cohesion).

The mediation efforts of Italia Viva leader Matteo Renzi, one of the former banker’s most staunch supporters and a key player in the start of his government, were useless. Now the ball is in the voters’ court. The 18th legislature after giving confidence to three governments has squandered its creative capital. Draghi’s government will still remain in office to take care of current business: “We have to deal with emergencies related to the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, inflation and the cost of energy. We have to carry on the implementation of the NRRP,” the resigning premier announced, to which are added acts of extraordinary necessity and urgency. Other decisive choices for the future of children and grandchildren will have to be made after the elections by a new (maybe a woman) prime minister, including the budget law.