Quirinale romance, part III: Draghi takes the field

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The traditional press conference by Prime Minister Mario Draghi has enriched the so-called Quirinal romance, thanks to a step forward bound to remain engraved in the history of the Legislature.

After months of silence, the prime minister has candidate himself to succeed President Sergio Mattarella: «My personal destiny counts for absolutely nothing. I have no aspirations of one kind or another. I am a man and a grandfather at the service of institutions ». Never before yesterday had he exposed himself so explicitly about the possibility of his move to the Colle.

Sharp words that have caught the parties off guard, being aware that the hypothesis of electing him at the Quirinale may lead to the opening of a new phase of political instability. With the associated risk of breaking the pact of the ruling coalition and the questioning of the equilibrium so far achieved with difficulty, moreover in a new acute moment of the pandemic.

Among the most concerned are Lega and M5S. The first knows that it cannot resist in a coalition of national unity led by a prime minister other than Draghi – hence the references of its secretary Matteo Salvini to the absolute and above all irreplaceable authority of the current head of government. The second, on the other hand, is terrified by the specter of early voting and struggles to accept the reassurances of those who, like the prime minister himself, argue that the government can still go ahead regardless of who leads it.

Not even for Forza Italia and Brothers of Italy parties it is a marriage that must be done. Silvio Berlusconi claims to have had the intuition from which the current executive was born and, more importantly, he has not yet given up on racing for Mattarella’s post. At the same time, the fact that Draghi excluded early elections also convinced Giorgia Meloni to attack the prime minister’s press conference, what she had not done for a while.

From the Democratic Party instead filters one of the most open-minded positions towards the prime minister. On the one hand, the Dems say they prefer the continuity of government action with Draghi at Palazzo Chigi, but on the other they know they cannot get in the way of his election to the Quirinale. Better to opt for the throw-in game, therefore, given that there is still one month left for the final.

Meanwhile, even Matteo Renzi tries to carve out a prominent role in the game, claiming that he does not agree with what Draghi said yesterday about the fact that the government majority must translate into a majority for the Quirinale. The head of Italia Viva has come out into the open to claim the role of king maker, aware that his MPs will have a decisive role in determining whether the next head of state will be more welcome to the center-left or the center-right.

To get the better of this cacophony of voices, ambitions and fears, Draghi bets on the parties’ sense of unity (if the political forces split, it is his reasoning, it is difficult that this does not have an impact on the government) and on the fact that he will have the same opposition as Mattarella to put an early end to the current legislature.

Next month’s challenge for Draghi will be exactly this. To convince his interlocutors that there is no other candidate capable of uniting the political actors and of being elected in the first ballots with an exceptionally large majority that legitimizes him as the president of all Italians.

It will certainly not be an easy undertaking. Against him, for example, the double agendas of the parties are rowing. Beyond the usual public declarations, Salvini could take the opportunity to withdraw from the government and recover consensus by going into the opposition; even Letta would be tempted by the possibility of reorganizing his parliamentary groups through early voting.

More importantly, the leaders’ hold on their respective parliamentary groups is at an all-time low. That means that before accepting the election of Draghi, voters will want the guarantee of the name of a new prime minister who will avoid the threat of early elections.

The last big unknown linked to the passage of Draghi to the Quirinale concerns who will have the challenging task of succeeding him in Palazzo Chigi, keeping the majority intact and guaranteeing the continuity of the government’s political action in terms of vaccinations and execution of the projects of the PNRR.

There is certainly no shortage of candidates, not even among the ranks of the government. But a month is long and in a time of resurgence of infections it cannot be excluded that the country’s public health needs do not end up prevailing over the dreams of politics.