The fall of Draghi reverberated outside of Italy

ROME. Just over a month ago, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi boarded a night train with French and German leaders bound for Kyiv. During the 10-hour trip, they joked that the President of France had the best living conditions. But more importantly, they declared their strong support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. Photos of men hiding in a cabin around a wooden meeting table were reminiscent of the club style of crisis management, reminiscent of World War II.

The very fact that Mr. Draghi sat at this table, reflecting on how, by the power of his authority and authority, he made his country – a country burdened with debts and constant political instability – an equal partner of the most important European powers. Crucial to this success was not only his economic integrity as a former president of the European Central Bank, but also his unwavering recognition that the Russian war was an existential challenge to Europe and its values.

All of this is now in jeopardy after a multi-flanked populist uprising motivated by an opportunist power grab, strikingly torpedoed by Mr. Government Draghi This week. Early elections scheduled for September, and polls show the alliance, dominated by far-right nationalists and populists, has a big lead over Italy in the fall.

mr. The fall of Draghi is already tantamount to the overthrow of the establishment that populist forces across Europe dream of. Now it’s worrisome far surpassing Italy, or how resilient movements remain on the continent, and what damage an Italian government more sympathetic to Russia and less committed to the European Union can do to a cohesive West facing perhaps the greatest combination of security and economics since the Cold War.

“Draghi’s departure is a real problem for Europe, a heavy blow,” said Gianfranco Paschino, emeritus professor of political science at the University of Bologna. “Draghi had a clear stance against Russian aggression in Ukraine. Europe will lose in compactness because the next prime minister will almost certainly be less convinced that Russia is responsible for the war.”

If the question arose as to what the sympathies of European leaders in the power struggle in Italy were based on, before his fall, Mr. Draghi received offers of support from the White House, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and others.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wrote “Europe needs leaders like Mario.” When Mr. Draghi made a final appeal Wednesday to Italy’s divisive parties to stay with him, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa wrote to thank him for reviewing his resignation, according to a person close to Mr. Draghi. Draghi.

But now, with Mr. Macron mourning the loss of the “great Italian statesman,” anxiety has spread across the continent about what will happen next.

mr. Draghi’s change in Italy’s position on Russia is all the more remarkable given how it began. Italy has some of the strongest ties with Russia in Western Europe. During the Cold War, the largest communist party in the West was located here, and Italy depended on Russia for more than 40 percent of its gas.

mr. Draghi made it his mission to break that pattern. He used his strong relationship with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to spearhead sanctions against the Russian Central Bank.

Through his public speaking, he pressured his allies, including Mr. Macron, to agree that Ukraine should eventually become a member of the European Union.

Days before the fateful Senate vote that toppled his government, Mr. Draghi visited Algeria to announce a gas deal that would replace Russia as Italy’s largest gas supplier.

Those gains are now in jeopardy after what began last week when an uprising in his coalition by the Five Star Movement, an ailing anti-establishment party, ended in a power grab by conservatives, far-right populists and nationalists who sensed a clear electoral struggle. opportunity, and went for the kill.

They refused Mr. Draghi a vote of confidence. Now, if the Italian voters do not punish them for overthrowing a government that many considered the most capable and competent in the country in recent years, they may win the elections.

The maneuvers of the alliance seemed far from spontaneous.

Ahead of the vote, Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, sat down with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi over a long, sweaty lunch at the tycoon’s villa on the Appian Way and discussed what to do.

Georgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy, a party with post-fascist roots that constantly calls for elections from the opposition, said she spoke with Mr. Berlusconi a few days earlier and that he also invited her to a meeting, but she objected, saying that it would be better for them to meet after the vote. She said that she had only spoken to Mr. Salvini on the phone after Mr. Draghi’s speech in Parliament.

“I didn’t want them to be forced to do what they were doing,” she said, referring to Mr. White. Salvini and Mr. Berlusconi, who left Mr. Dredge and overthrow the government. “I knew it would only work if they were confident that they would leave this government.”

Everyone has something to gain from their union. mr. Salvini, the far-right leader of the League party and not so long ago the most popular politician in the country, saw his reputation damaged when he acted as Mr. League. Draghi’s government, and Mr. Meloni enlisted the angry support of the opposition, now ousting him as a rising Italian political star. mr. Berlusconi, almost a former politician at 85, was useful and necessary to both, but could also use his coat tails to return to power.

Together, as polls show, they are supported by more than 45 percent of voters.

This worries many critics of Russia. mr. Salvini wore shirts with Putin’s face on them on Red Square in Moscow and in European Parliamenthis party signed a cooperation agreement with Mr. Putin’s United Russia Party in 2017.

Mrs. Meloni, in what some analysts see as a ploy to distinguish herself from Mr. Salvini and make herself a more acceptable candidate for prime minister, has become a strong supporter of Ukraine.

mr. Berlusconi before host mr. Putin’s daughters at his Sardinian villa and was a long time mr. Putin’s closest ally in Western Europe. But now some of Mr. Longtime supporters of Berlusconi say he forgot about his European values ​​and crossed the Rubicon to the side of nationalists and Putin supporters.

Renato Brunetta, Italy’s public administration minister and longtime member of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, left the party after it merged with the populist League party and withdrew its support for Mr. Berlusconi. Dredge and the destruction of the government.

He said he left because M. Berlusconi’s decision to leave the government was irresponsible and contrary to the party’s values ​​for the past 30 years. When asked if he believed Mr. Berlusconi, sometimes staggering, was actually clear enough to make a decision. He said that “it would be even more serious” if he was.

Italy, long a laboratory of European politics, has also been an incubator for continental populism and the rise of far-right movements into mainstream forces.

When Mr. Berlusconi entered politics, mainly to protect his business interests in the 1990s. He considered himself a businessman, moderate and conservative. But in order to put together a victorious coalition, he brought in the League and the post-fascist party, which later became the mistress. Melons.

Now the situation has changed. Mrs. Meloni and Mr. Salvini need Mr. Berlusconi’s little electoral support to win elections and form a government. They are responsible.

“It’s a right-wing coalition because it’s no longer centre-right,” he said. Brunette. “This is a right-wing coalition with sovereignist tendencies, extremist and Putinfilov.”

Mr Draghi’s supporters find some comfort in the fact that he will remain as interim until the next government is formed, with control over pandemic-related issues, international affairs, including Ukraine policy, and billions of euros in in the form of recovery funds from Europe. . This money is delivered in tranches and strict requirements must be met before disbursement.

Mr. Draghi’s supporters acknowledged that major new changes on important issues like pensions were now out of the question, but they argued that recovery funds were more or less safe because no government, not even a populist far-right, would get away with all that money. . , and therefore will follow Mr. Draghi’s vision of modernization funded by these euros.

But if the last week has shown anything, it’s that political calculations sometimes outweigh national interests.

The government’s achievements are already “under threat” in the coming months of Mr. Trump’s rule. Draghi’s limited powers, Mr Brunetta said, but if the nationalist front wins, he said, “obviously it will get worse.”

mr. Brunetta said that Mr. Draghi appeared on the political scene primarily because there was a “crisis of traditional parties” in Italy. He said that 17 months in government and the support it has received from the public has shown that there is a “Draghi electorate” that wants moderate, pragmatic and values-based governance.

The problem, he said, was that “there were no political parties, much less a coalition to represent them”, and he hoped they might be born before the election, but “there was little time”.

And meanwhile, according to him, something was absolutely certain. Italy has lost influence in Europe, and the continent will also suffer from the loss of Mr. J. Draghi.

“Europe,” he said, “is weakened.”

Gaia Pianigiani made a report.