Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said now is not the time for political uncertainty within the eurozone's third largest economy, amid a myriad of domestic and geopolitical challenges.
Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi has told the country's fractious parties they will have to support him at a crucial confidence vote or accept responsibility for a crisis analysts say could end in snap elections.
Draghi said on Wednesday now was not the time for political uncertainty within the eurozone's third largest economy, amid a myriad of domestic and geopolitical challenges, from a struggling economy to the Ukraine crisis.
"We now need staunch support for the government's programme," Draghi told the Senate. "The only way forward if we want to stay together is to rebuild afresh this (government) pact with courage, selflessness, credibility."
"Are you ready?...You don't owe this answer to me, but to all Italians," he said.
The stern speech by a usually softly-spoken Draghi suggested that the former leader of the European Central Bank was prepared to stay — but on one condition: if the wildly disparate parties pledge anew to a common agenda.
Italy's PM Mario Draghi is due to face lawmakers and tell them whether or not he will stay on as PM, which is likely to create significant market volatility in Europe just ahead of a crucial meeting of the European Central Bank pic.twitter.com/4fT9JNogpz— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) July 20, 2022
The crisis was sparked by the refusal by the Five Star Movement, a coalition member, to opt out of a confidence vote last week.
Draghi offered to resign immediately afterwards, but was persuaded by Italy's president to reach out to parties first.
Polls suggest most Italians want Draghi, 74, to stay at the helm until the scheduled general election in May next year. His departure could force the president to dissolve parliament and call elections for September or October.
Parliamentarians will now debate for over five hours, setting out their positions. Draghi will then respond, before a vote later on Wednesday.
"Draghi did not compromise. He was very tough," Francesco Galietti, Policy Sonar analyst, told AFP news agency. "The entire speech was stick and carrot – though much more stick than carrot."
There is much at stake: a government collapse could worsen social ills in a period of rampant inflation, delay the budget, threaten EU post-pandemic recovery funds and send jittery markets into a tailspin.
Draghi noted on Wednesday that as an unelected leader he needs the broadest consensus possible to tackle Italy's most pressing issues: from a cost of living crisis and recession worries, to the rollout of key reforms and the Ukraine situation.
For a long time, he said, his coalition was able "to put aside divisions and come together... for rapid and effective action, for the good of all citizens".
But "the desire to move forward together gradually waned, and with it the ability to act effectively, with 'timeliness', in the interests of the country".