Mario Draghi formally accepts Italy's prime ministerial post

WION Web Team
New DelhiUpdated: Feb 13, 2021, 09:00 AM IST
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Italy's new prime minister, former European Central Bank President Mario Draghi addresses the media on February 12, 2021 following a meeting with Italy's President at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome Photograph:(AFP)

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Mario Draghi will now lead the government set to replace Giuseppe Conte's centre-left coalition that collapsed a month ago

Mario Draghi, former European Central Bank chief on Friday formally accepted Italy's prime ministerial post. He will now lead the government set to replace Giuseppe Conte's centre-left coalition that collapsed a month ago. Draghi, the 73-year-old economist, spoke with Italy President Sergio Mattarella and spoke only to list the names of his ministers, a mix of politicians and technocrats. Draghi will return to the presidential palace at midday on Saturday to be formally sworn in, a spokesman for Mattarella said.

The senior deputy governor of Bank of Italy, Daniele Franco, was named as the new economy minister, while Roberto Speranza and Luigi Di Maio stay on at health and foreign affairs, respectively.

Draghi will take the reins when Italy has not fully recovered from the blow of coronavirus pandemic.

More than 93,000 people with coronavirus have died in Italy since it became the first European country to face the full force of the pandemic one year ago, and the toll is still rising by the hundreds each day.

Shutdowns and coronavirus restrictions have plunged Italy, eurozone's third-largest economy into its worst recession since second world war. More than 420,000 people have lost their jobs.

Coalition, for now?

President Sergio Mattarella asked Draghi to form a new government on February 3, and the respected economist has spent the last nine days assembling the widest possible majority in parliament.

Almost all the main parties are behind him, from leftists to Matteo Salvini's far-right League, and including the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and Italia Viva, who shared power before.

Draghi was expected to present a list of ministers to Mattarella, before being formally sworn in on Saturday.

M5S, the biggest party in parliament which began life as an anti-establishment movement, was split over whether to support a government led by an unelected technocrat.

But in an online vote, members backed Draghi by 59 per cent, after it claimed to have secured the promise to set up a new super-ministry for "ecological transition".

Uphill challenges

Italy has high hopes for its new leader, dubbed "Super Mario" after vowing to do "whatever it takes" to save the euro single currency during the 2010s debt crisis. 

His arrival was greeted with delight by the financial markets, and Italy's borrowing costs dropped to a historic low this week.

But "it is difficult to overstate the scale of the challenges that Draghi and Italy face", said Luigi Scazzieri, of the Centre for European Reform.

The economy shrank by a staggering 8.9 per cent last year, while Covid-19 remains rife and restrictions including a night curfew and the closure of bars and restaurants in the evening remain in place.

(With AFP inputs)