EXPLAINER: Who gains or loses, what’s next in Italy crisis

Jul 21, 2022, 12:02 PM | Updated: 12:30 pm

Italian Premier Mario Draghi waves to lawmakers at the end of his address at the Parliament in Rome...

Italian Premier Mario Draghi waves to lawmakers at the end of his address at the Parliament in Rome, Thursday, July 21, 2022. Premier Mario Draghi's national unity government headed for collapse Thursday after key coalition allies boycotted a confidence vote, signaling the likelihood of early elections and a renewed period of uncertainty for Italy and Europe at a critical time. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

ROME (AP) — Italian Premier Mario Draghi’s decision to resign Thursday, barely 12 hours after his “unity” coalition broke apart dramatically in Parliament, was the latest step in a political limbo that will likely last for months before a new government is solidly in place to lead the European Union’s third-largest economy.

By Thursday afternoon, about the only certainty was Italians are going to the ballot box on Sept. 25, some six months early.

Even before the date was set, Italy’s perennially bickering parties were already off and running, some of them losing longtime stalwarts in their leadership over the decision by three key coalition partners — populist, right-wing and conservative — to desert Draghi. In 17 months at the helm of government, Draghi was viewed as a pillar of stability on a continent wracked by high inflation and fearful of energy shortages as the war in Ukraine drags on.

Rallies, petitions and pleas by citizens, mayors and lobbyists to save his imperiled government ultimately went unheeded. Political partisan priorities triumphed over solidarity in a nation that, like most of Europe, faces an approaching cold winter as it deals with the consequences of its dependency on gas from Russia.

How the failure to heed citizens’ pleas might shape voters’ decisions won’t be known until the votes are counted and parties in backroom talks forge a new government.


Much finger-pointing was aimed at the 5-Star Movement, which became Parliament’s largest political force in the 2018 election. Its leader, Giuseppe Conte, drafted by the 5-Stars to be premier in back-to-back governments, had joined his successor’s “national unity coalition.” But he always seemed to be chafing at losing his post to Draghi, who was tapped by President Sergio Mattarella to guide Italy’s economic revival in the pandemic. Last week, 5-Star senators boycotted a confidence vote on an energy costs relief bill.

But Draghi suffered no shortages of run-ins with other coalition partners. To cite only one: right-wing League leader Matteo Salvini railed against a government decree requiring vaccination against COVID-19, a negative test or recent recovery from infection to access venues including restaurants, gyms and workplaces.

Both Conte and Salvini, known for pro-Russia stances, eventually reluctantly approved Italy’s shipments of arms to Ukraine. Former premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose conservative Forza Italia party also deserted the coalition, lavished attention on Russian leader Vladimir Putin, treating him like a close friend at his Sardinian seaside villa.

A small, centrist party leader, Carlo Calenda tweeted with irony: “It will be a coincidence, but the most serious and pro-Atlantic government of recent history gets sent packing by those who have supported pro-Putin positions.”


Mattarella, the Italian president, told the nation Thursday evening that while early elections are always a “last choice,” he saw no chance for a fourth government in the five-year term of Parliament. So he signed a decree dissolving Parliament.

The fatal blow for Draghi’s government struck when senators from Conte’s, Salvini’s and Berlusconi’s parties refused to renew their backing for Draghi in a confidence vote the premier sought in a 11th-hour bid to revive his coalition.

Italy’s constitution mandates that elections must be held within 70 days of the decree ending Parliament, whose five-year term would have expired in March 2023.


Opinion polls in last months indicated that the far-right Brothers of Italy party, the only sizeable force in Parliament to refuse to join Draghi’s coalition could garner just over 20% if an election. That’s roughly the same percentage the polls give the center-left Democratic Party. But former Premier Enrico Letta, whose Democratic Party gave Draghi its confidence votes, had been banking on an eventual electoral alliance with the 5-Star Movement — a prospect decidedly dicey after the populists deserted Draghi. Giorgia Meloni, the Brothers of Italy leader, has been allied for years with Salvini’s and Berlusconi’s parties, but while her popularity rose, their parties have seen slumping fortunes in local elections. But with Salvini itching for years to become premier, Meloni might face a Salvini-Berlusconi deal to make the League leader the next premier.


The dramatic and rapid unraveling of Draghi’s ”unity” coalition is likely to leave its mark on Italy’s political landscape. As former Premier Matteo Renzi, a master of political maneuvering, who helped bring down Conte’s second premiership, put it even before the votes were counted Wednesday night: “Nothing will be the same as political parties go.”

By Thursday evening, two prominent stalwarts n Berlusconi’s Forza Italia who are ministers in Draghi’s Cabinet announced they were leaving the party. They accused the media mogul of betraying the party’s staunch pro-Europe, pro-NATO leanings by siding with Euro-skeptic Salvini and abandoning Draghi. As for the populists, the 5-Star Movement has been bleeding lawmakers for months. The most prominent to defect is Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, who recently formed a pro-NATO party.


Draghi stays until a new government is formed and sworn in. After the 2018 elections, which saw the 5-Stars confound pundits and opinion polls with a stunningly big win, it took 90 days to get a new government in place, anchored by Conte’s and Salvini’s forces. So conceivably, Draghi in his caretaker role, might occupy the premier’s office through most of this year.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Mugshot of Rudy Giuliani, who was processed Monday, June 10, 2024, in the Arizona fake electors cas...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani posts $10K cash bond after being processed in Arizona fake electors case

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Donald Trump attorney, was processed Monday in the Arizona fake electors case.

1 day ago

FILE - White House former chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wed...

Associated Press

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows pleads not guilty in Arizona fake elector case

Former Donald Trump presidential chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump 2020 Election Day operations director Michael Roman pleaded not guilty Friday in Phoenix to nine felony charges for their roles in an effort to overturn Trump's Arizona election loss to Joe Biden.

5 days ago

deadly heat wave last summer...

Associated Press

After a deadly heat wave last summer, metro Phoenix is changing tactics

Fresh memories of the deadly heat wave last summer have led Arizona authorities to launch new tactics ahead of summer 2024.

15 days ago

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near...

Associated Press

Man accused of starting wildfire in national wildlife preserve in Yuma

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near the California border.

16 days ago

Colorado River settlement center of new Navajo Nation push...

Associated Press

Tribes say their future is at stake as they push for Congress to consider Colorado River settlement

Navajo officials are celebrating the signing of legislation outlining a proposed Colorado River settlement that would ensure water rights.

19 days ago

Arizona doctors California abortions...

Associated Press

Arizona doctors can come to California to perform abortions under new law signed by Gov. Newsom

Arizona doctors can temporarily come to California to perform abortions for their patients under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

20 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

EXPLAINER: Who gains or loses, what’s next in Italy crisis