Comment: Fateful week in Italy: Rome’s comeback threatens to fail
Rom While the whole of Europe is looking towards Ukraine, a fateful election is pending in the heart of the continent: Italy will elect a new president from Monday. In normal times that would be less important, since it is only about a representative office. But this time, the stability of the entire country depends on it – and thus also the euro zone.
Because the favorite for the highest state office is the man who, within a year, turned Italy from a shaky candidate to a stable partner, to a model country for vaccinations, to the growth engine of the EU, whom the markets trust again: Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
However, if Draghi moves to the presidency, the currently governing “coalition of national unity” could break up in the scramble for the vacant prime ministerial post. In the worst case, the world’s eighth largest economy is then threatened with early elections in which right-wing populists could come to power. The stability that has just been regained, the reputation abroad – they would be gone.
The country has been polarized for years, and no camp currently has a majority in parliament. In polls, the centre-right parties are slightly ahead, coming together at 46 percent. Even if Draghi, a convinced multilateralist, were to take over the highest state office for the next seven years, Italy could be governed by the Eurosceptic Lega or even by the post-fascist “Italian Brothers”.
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Silvio Berlusconi resigns
However, Draghi is not the only conceivable president. Only on Monday, in the first ballot, will the parties reveal their proposals. A self-declared candidature, that of political oldie Silvio Berlusconi, has already failed: the 85-year-old withdrew on Saturday. Even an advertising campaign in which his Forza Italia party raved about Berlusconi (“a good and generous person”) apparently wasn’t enough to garner the needed supporters in Rome.
The hope remains that the parties will pull themselves together again, as they did a good year ago when Draghi took power. Because the time for political instability could not be more inappropriate: Italy must break the fourth wave of corona, implement the reforms that have been initiated and, above all, conscientiously spend the billions from the EU recovery fund. Only if all this succeeds can the country’s comeback last.
More: Draghi, a right-wing candidate or just chaos? Five scenarios for Italy’s future after the presidential election.