Former head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, was officially sworn in as the new Italian prime minister on Saturday amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic and a crippling recession.
The appointment of the 73-year-old known as “Super Mario” brought weeks of political instability to a close for the country, which is still affected by the health crisis that killed more than 93,000 people.
“I swear I am loyal to the Republic,” recited Draghi as he stood in front of President Sergio Mattarella in the ornate presidential palace in a live televised ceremony.
Members of his new cabinet, which include technocrats, senior politicians and ministers from the previous government, have all taken the oath of office.
Draghi was parachuted on by Mattarella after the previous center-left coalition under Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte collapsed and led Italy rudderlessly at a critical time.
He has spent the last 10 days putting together a broad-based coalition and officially assumed the office of Prime Minister at a meeting with Mattarella on Friday evening, after which he publicly unveiled the new cabinet for the first time.
On Wednesday, Draghi will be introduced to the Senate, the upper house of parliament, followed by the lower chamber of deputies on Thursday for a vote of confidence that will give his government the final official blessing.
“Break a leg” was the headline on La Stampa every Saturday when an Ipsos poll in the daily Corriere della Sera found that 62 percent of Italians supported Draghi.
Coalition for now?
Draghi has the support of a rainbow coalition that ranges from the left to Matteo Salvini’s far-right league.
These include the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), the center-left Democratic Party (PD) and Italia Viva, who formed the previous government and then debated how to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
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.
In an online vote, however, members supported Draghi by 59 percent after receiving the promise of a new super ministry for “ecological transition.”
This post went to the renowned physicist Roberto Cingolani, who works for the Italian aviation giant Leonardo.
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.
Challenges are waiting for you
Italy has high hopes for its new head of state, who is known to “do everything possible to save the eurozone amid the 2010s debt crisis”.
Although he has no political power base himself, Draghi can draw on his years of experience in the Italian public service and his banking career.
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 Covid-19 shutdown and subsequent restrictions resulted in the economy shrinking an astonishing 8.9 percent over the past year while more than 420,000 people lost their jobs.
It’s Italy’s worst recession since World War II.
The virus remains widespread and Contes cabinet tightened curbs in four regions and extended travel bans between regions in one of its last acts on Friday.
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 looks easier than that of previous technocratic prime ministers like Mario Monti in 2011, who turned to tough, unpopular austerity measures during the debt crisis.
“But it is not enough to spend funds,” said researcher Scazzieri, adding that it “will be just as difficult for the new prime minister to carry out long-awaited reforms”.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)