Despite winning a vote of confidence, Italian Prime Minister Draghi sees his government fall apart

Despite winning a vote of confidence, Italian Prime Minister Draghi sees his government fall apart
Mario Draghi, the prime minister of Italy, speaks before the Senate in Rome on Wednesday. He is accompanied by the foreign and defense ministers, Luigi Di Maio (left) and Lorenzo Guerini.
Andrew Medichini/AP
Mario Draghi, the prime minister of Italy, won a confidence vote in the Senate on Wednesday, but it was a hollow triumph because three of his important coalition partners abstained, effectively ending any chance of his unity government's survival.

After numerous senators abstained during the roll call, the vote on Wednesday in the 315-member Senate went 95-38 in support of Draghi's administration.

Enrico Letta, a former prime minister and leader of the Democratic Party, the only sizable party in the ruling coalition to support Draghi in the confidence vote, stated that "Parliament decides to go against Italy in these days of stupidity." Italians will demonstrate that they are wiser than their representatives at the polls.

President Sergio Mattarella may dismiss the legislature in response to Draghi's 17-month-old coalition's swift dissolution, paving the way for early elections to be held as early as late September.

Draghi offered his resignation last week as a result of coalition problems, but Mattarella rejected the offer and instructed the prime minister to take his case to Parliament. Draghi urged the Senate to vote on a confidence resolution for him to continue leading after hours of discussion on his fate on Wednesday. But the viability of his national unity administration had collapsed.

Right before the vote, representatives of the populist 5-Star Movement, the right-wing senators from Matteo Salvini's League party, and the conservative branch of former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi's center-right Forza Italia party declared they would forego the roll call.

Despite an unparalleled outpouring of support for Draghi to continue leading the country amid rising energy prices, surging inflation, and an increase in pandemic infections over the past few days, the coalition's collapse nonetheless occurred.

The former head of the European Central Bank had urged his coalition colleagues to renew their commitment to a unity accord since he was seen by the financial markets as a guarantee of Italy's fiscal stability.

"Have you prepared? Are you prepared to renew this agreement? Have you prepared?" Draghi bellowed. "You are not required to respond to my question. It must be distributed to all Italians."

In the event that Draghi submits his resignation once more, Mattarella may speak with party leaders one more before making a decision.

To ensure that parliamentarians could pass the yearly budget, whose first draft is expected in mid-October, the president may see if parties would agree to a short-lived, limited administration led by a non-political figure, such as the present finance minister. However, that seemed unlikely given the large number of Italian parties who have already declared themselves prepared for an early election.

Voter surveys show a close race between Letta and Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, which is currently the largest opposition force. Meloni has a solid chance of achieving her aim of becoming Italy's first female premier if she continues to form an electoral alliance with her longtime allies Salvini and Berlusconi.

Letta's Democrats had hoped to form an electoral coalition with the 5-Stars, but it is now challenging given the disagreement over the confidence vote.

As far as political parties are concerned, "nothing will be the same tomorrow," declared Matteo Renzi, a second former premier who currently heads a centrist party that supported Draghi.

Giuseppe Conte, the head of the 5-Star party and Draghi's predecessor as prime minister, has been hammering Draghi with demands over the past few weeks. Both Salvini and the populists have condemned Italy's military assistance to Ukraine. One MP last week referred to Draghi's upcoming departure as "a gift" to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a result of this.

Draghi has pushed for initiatives to reduce Italy's reliance on Russian gas ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, including negotiating arrangements with Algeria, where he visited this week.