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Can ‘super’ Mario Draghi rebuild Italy’s government?

Former European Central Bank chief accepts mandate to form new coalition

The economist dubbed “Super Mario” after saving the euro has agreed to form a new unity government tasked with keeping Italy afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella summoned Mario Draghi for talks today, after the ruling coalition collapsed earlier this month when former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew the support of his Italia Viva party.

Who is ‘super’ new leader?

Draghi is an economist and central banker who served as president of the European Central Bank (ECB) from 2011 to 2019. He had previously held a string of senior economic positions in Italy, including a six-year stint as governor of the Bank of Italy from 2005.

As head of the ECB, Draghi “helped to calm markets and stave off a collapse of the euro” in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, pledging to do “whatever it takes” to save the EU’s currency, The Times reports.

However, “he has largely vanished from the public eye since his ECB term ended”, says The Telegraph, and unlike other figures vying for political power, is untarnished by the in-fighting that has dogged the Italian government during the pandemic response.  

Given his unsullied reputation, Draghi is expected to be a popular choice among voters to lead a new coalition. 

The New York Times (NYT) notes that until he met with Mattarella today, the idea of Draghi taking the reins “remained a pipe dream for the many Italians frustrated with a governing coalition that seemed paralysed by ideological schisms and incompetence”.

Challenges ahead

Although he is a well liked and respected figure on the Italian political scene, Draghi will inherit a series of challenges that will require swift and effective action.

With Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte set to depart the stage, speculation is growing as to whether the new coalition will be made up of figures from “the parties supporting Draghi, or an all-star cast of politically unaffiliated economists, judges and scientists”, the NYT says. 

The new leader will also have to get on top of the “health, economic and political turmoil battering Italy”, The Telegraph adds.

The Italian economy has nosedived during the pandemic, with newly released figures from national statistics bureau Istat revealing that the country’s GDP fell by 8.8% in 2020 - the sharpest annual decline since the Second World War.

Draghi is “no political novice” and has overcome a series of major obstacles during his long career, the NYT says. 

Yet Conte also “proved himself a deft operator but in the end could not survive Rome’s eternal political machinations”, The Times adds.

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