by Daniele Scalea

Mario Draghi has (again) resigned as Prime Minister, after receiving a slim confidence in the Senate behind which lies the de facto withdrawal from the majority of Forza Italia, the League and the 5-Star Movement. Most likely, the President of the Republic will now have to dissolve the Parliament and call early elections in September or early October, with the Draghi government in office only to deal with current affairs.

Balance sheet in the red

When President Mattarella entrusted Draghi with the task of forming a new government a year and a half ago, the Centro Studi Machiavelli was cautiously open to the hypothesis. Cautiously also because of the coexistence of very different opinions. For example, in a debate we promoted on February 5, 2021 with two members of the Scientific Council, two line clashed: the pro-Draghi represented by Corrado Ocone and the one radically hostile to the former ECB president embodied by Marco Gervasoni.

Our openness did not depend on forgetting who Mario Draghi was. Grand commis implicated in controversial privatizations, governor of the Bank of Italy who spared no pungent remarks to the then center-right government, president of the ECB implicated in the 2011 overthrow of Berlusconi, enthusiastic Euro-unionist and globalist. The context, however, dictated openness. A distinguished and influential economist like Draghi, willing to involve the center-right in a government of national unity, was going to replace the wretched Conte government, markedly leftist and responsible for the liberticidal lockdown policies as well as an open war against SMEs and the self-employed. It was about burying Giuseppe Conte, the parvenu who, by exploiting the health emergency, was building tight control over the power nodes - from the media to the intelligence to the emergency structures.

We were disappointed. The discontinuity that was being called for on anti-covid policies was not there: rather, Draghi confirmed Speranza and all the restrictions on personal freedoms, adding to it the heavy load of the infamous Green Pass. Draghi has also embraced the ideological and extremist environmentalist policies promoted in the EU, and launched himself unabashedly into an anti-Russian campaign motivated by aggression against Ukraine but oblivious to objective problems such as Italy's dependence on Russian gas. That is, he did not create the ongoing energy crisis but fueled it with his choices.

Finally, it is evident how Draghi, from the very beginning of his tenure, has always shown a clear preference for the left wing of his majority, and in particular for the Democratic Party (PD). From the selection of ministers to policy choices, from press conferences to personal relationships with leaders, Draghi has seemed to "tolerate" the governing Center-Right rather than involve and sublimate it in the scheme of national unity.

A final hybris

This played a primary role in his unexpected downfall. In recent weeks Draghi has shown himself withdrawn from all dialogue and negotiation. He has repeated (ironically) the attitudes and choices that already led Conte to lose the government: he has basked in good press and even a fair degree of popular consensus, forgetting, however, that he needs above all that of the majority of Parliament.

The crisis began with a tug-of-war with Giuseppe Conte and the Five Star Movement (M5S): a tug-of-war that the latter probably did not want to take to extremes. Draghi, with his trademark inflexibility and - let's face it - arrogance, turned an M5S "non-vote" into the occasion for resignations. But such resignations could only lead to two paths: either the final demise of the government, or a new majority without the M5S. That, in fact, is what the governing Center-Right called for.

Thoughtlessly, however, Draghi chose a third way. He sought to reconfirm the current majority and government without any change. If such was the goal, however, the premier should have avoided the previous break with the M5S: either by not asking for a vote of confidence on the "Aid" Bill or by glossing over the "no vote" of the Five Stars who - it should be remembered - never openly voted against him.

As if that were not enough, on Wednesday in the Senate Draghi chose to deliver a harsh and haughty speech. In demagogic tones he boasted of an "unprecedented [...] mobilization" of Italians in his favor (really? A few city squares with a few hundred people?!). He repeatedly brought up support for Ukraine and Zelensky's support for him, alluding to a supposed "intelligence with the enemy" of those parties unwilling to give him carte blanche. He, in fact, asked for full powers: the parties would have to vote for him and approve anything he proposed from there on out without a peep. Take it or leave it.

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And they left it. The Five Star Movement, which was also considering a vote of confidence, boiled over. Forza Italia and the League were so humiliated by Draghi that they could no longer support him. For days Draghi ignored their call for a new government without the M5S. On Tuesday, he ignored their resolution to that effect, placing the vote of confidence on a PD-minded one that granted him carte blanche on everything. The day before, moreover, in an unprecedented choice he had met with PD Secretary Enrico Letta to agree with him and him alone on the line to follow. Only in the face of protests from the governing Center-Right had he, finally, granted its leaders audience as well.

Draghi has, in short, done everything not to stay in charge of the government. Either he was granted full powers - to him and, through him, to Letta and Mattarella, i.e., the PD - or it was no. No it was.

What happens next

Under the current conditions, it is very difficult for the President of the Republic to pull a new rabbit out of his hat to delay elections any longer. It is easy to see how Conte and Draghi have packaged a fabulous gift to the Center-Right, at a stage when the latter was riven by infighting and plagued by declining enthusiasm among its core electorate.

Suddenly the Center-Right finds itself recompacted by the end of the Draghi government. The M5S, on the other hand, is in tatters, having suffered the split headed by Foreign Minister Di Maio, who has many followers in Parliament but very few in the country. What was left of Conte's (undeserved) aura of "statesman" has been burned by the clumsy handling of this juncture. The rift created with the PD is evident. The Left can only hope to win with a very wide camp, bringing to itself the votes of the Center. Forza Italia, however, has finally realigned itself with the League and Fratelli d'Italia, at the modest cost of the exit of such unpopular figures as Ministers Brunetta and Gelmini. Perhaps the Right will lose Liguria's president Giovanni Toti and his companions, but it is doubtful that they can represent decisive votes. Not least because at the center the only leader with any popularity is Carlo Calenda, who, however, is a bitter enemy of anything that smacks of M5S: hence of Conte and even Di Maio. Finding a solution is unlikely, and even if it were found at the level of party secretariats, it might not work among the voters.

In short: the scenarios in which the Center-Right does not get a majority are few. Despite all its limitations and flaws, it seems that the voters really want to trust the Center-Right with the government again, after eleven years of abstinence. Then, however, it will be up to them to be worthy. And it will not be easy, with the socio-economic storm brewing for the coming winter.

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Founder and President of Centro Studi Machiavelli. Graduated in Historical Sciences (University of Milan) and PhD in Political Studies (Sapienza University), he is professor of "History and doctrine of jihadism" and "Geopolitics of the Middle East" at Cusano University. From 2018 to 2019 he was Special Advisor on Immigration and Terrorism to the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Guglielmo Picchi. His latest book (as editor) is Topicality of sovereignism. Between pandemic and war.