On Thursday, Italy’s wavering government came under threat after the country’s president refused to accept Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s resignation, insisting he was addressing parliament in an effort to avoid early elections.
Mr Draghi had previously vowed to step down after a party in his coalition government – the Five Star Movement – sat out a vote of confidence, causing turmoil in the eurozone’s third-largest economy.
Mr Draghi said the “trust pact” on which the government was based has been violated and the conditions for continued activity “are no more”. He said he made “every effort” to “fulfill the demands that were made of me”, but the vote showed that “these efforts were not enough”.
President Sergio Mattarella, a key figure in moments of political crisis, asked Draghi not to give up, but instead to “assess” the situation in Parliament. He is expected to speak in both the lower and upper chambers on Wednesday.
“Now we have five days to make sure the Parliament has voted in favor of Draghi’s government,” Enrico Letta, head of the centre-left Democratic Party (DP), tweeted.
The crisis comes as Italy battles raging inflation and rushes through key reforms demanded by the European Union in exchange for post-pandemic funds.
The Five Star Movement (M5S), led by former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, has been robbing parliamentarians and support in the polls due to political upheavals and internal divisions.
He missed Thursday’s vote of confidence in what pundits described as a tactical attempt to regain grassroots support ahead of a scheduled 2023 general election.
The government held the vote, but Mr Draghi had previously warned repeatedly that he would not remain prime minister without the support of Five Star.
A vote of confidence was placed on a bailout package worth about 23 billion euros ($34 billion) to help fight runaway inflation. But it also included a provision allowing the construction of an incinerator in Rome, something Five Star had long opposed.
The Five Star said they would not stand up to the incinerator vote, but still supported Draghi. The crisis could still end with Italians heading to the ballot box later this year.
The far right has seized on tensions as both the anti-immigrant league, part of Mr Draghi’s coalition, and the opposition Brothers of Italy party say fresh elections are needed.
But Mr. Draghi could also find himself at the head of the same coalition again, as Five Star has little interest in an early election that could lead to bad results. Milan’s stock market closed down 3 percent after political turmoil.
Mr Draghi was appointed Prime Minister in February 2021 by Mr Mattarella and has been tasked with implementing the reforms needed to receive the largest tranche of EU funds for the recovery from the pandemic, a package worth around 200 billion euros for Italy.
Since then, the government has become embroiled in the war in Ukraine, taking a firm pro-European line and fighting a cost-of-living crisis at home.
Draghi’s support for Ukraine, which includes sending weapons and supporting EU sanctions, won a vote of confidence in parliament in June despite criticism from Conte that the policy could fuel an arms race.
The Five Stars won the 2018 legislative election with an unprecedented third of the vote, but now face an uncertain future with serious internal rifts and now garner 11 percent of the vote.
Last month, the largest party in parliament split, and Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio created a splinter group.
Lorenzo Codogno, a professor at the London School of Economics, told AFP that the Five Stars did not participate in the vote because they “want to hit the headlines and succeed in the polls again, managing the opposition as if they were not in government.”