Mario Draghi officially takes over the post of Italian Prime Minister

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The former head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, will be sworn in on Saturday. (File)

Rome:

Former head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, officially accepted the Italian Prime Ministery on Friday, which is set to lead his country through the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 73-year-old economist will lead a new government of national unity to replace Giuseppe Conte’s center-left coalition, which collapsed a month ago and is rudderless in an unprecedented crisis.

After meeting President Sergio Mattarella to officially accept the appointment, Draghi spoke only to list the names of his ministers, a mix of politicians and technocrats.

Deputy Governor of the Bank of Italy, Daniele Franco, has been appointed as the new Minister of the Economy, while Roberto Speranza and Luigi Di Maio are in the health and outdoor sectors.

Draghi will return to the presidential palace on Saturday lunchtime to be officially sworn in, a Mattarella spokesman said.

More than 93,000 people with coronavirus have died in Italy since it became the first European country to experience the full strength of the pandemic a year ago, and the number of victims is still increasing by hundreds every day.

Last year’s shutdown and subsequent restrictions plunged the eurozone’s third largest economy into its worst recession since World War II, and lost more than 420,000 jobs.

Coalition for now?

President Sergio Mattarella has asked Draghi to form a new government on February 3rd, and the distinguished economist has spent the past nine days getting the largest possible majority in parliament.

Almost all of the main parties stand behind him, from the left to Matteo Salvini’s far-right league, including the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), the center-left Democratic Party (PD) and Italia Viva, which had previously shared power.

Draghi was due to provide Mattarella with a list of ministers before he was officially sworn in on Saturday.

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

However, in an online vote, members supported Draghi by 59 percent after claiming they had received a promise to establish a new super ministry for “ecological transition.”

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Uphill challenges

Italy has high hopes for its new leader, dubbed “Super Mario”, after he vowed to “do everything possible to save the single euro currency during the 2010 debt crisis”.

His arrival was greeted with delight by the financial markets and Italy’s borrowing costs fell to an all-time low this week.

“However, it is difficult to overestimate the scale of the challenges Draghi and Italy are facing,” said Luigi Scazzieri of the Center for European Reforms.

The economy contracted a staggering 8.9 percent over the past year, while Covid-19 remains widespread and restrictions, including a night curfew and closings of bars and restaurants in the evening, remain.

In one of the last acts of his government on Friday, Contes cabinet extended the travel ban between regions for another week and tightened the curbs in four regions.

Like other countries in the European Union, Italy has fallen behind in its vaccination program and has blamed delivery delays.

The country hopes to get more than € 220 billion in EU recovery funds to get back on its feet.

But disputes over how the money should be spent, between calls for long-term structural reforms and short-term incentives, have overturned the previous administration.

Draghi’s job is easier than that of previous technocratic prime ministers like Mario Monti, who turned to harsh, unpopular austerity measures during the debt crisis.

“But spending is not enough,” Scazzieri said, adding that the new prime minister “will find it just as difficult to carry out long-awaited reforms”.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)

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