Thanks to our Edelman Italy colleagues for their preparation of this report.
The Draghi Cabinet was formed in February 2021, supported by a large political majority to which only the right movement Fratelli d’Italia did not take part.
Since its establishment, the government had to face three main challenges: the implementation of a mass vaccination campaign, the building of a National Recovery and Resilience Plan, and the approval of the necessary reforms in order to access the European Next Generation funding program.
The crisis was triggered by the Movimento 5 Stelle, winning party at the 2018 elections today going through a phase of identity crisis, also witnessed by the drastic drop in polls (loss of 4 percentage points from January 2021 to July 2022), the disappointing results in 2022 local elections, and the internal defection of the governist wing led by Luigi Di Maio.
In this context of great party instability, the crisis unfolded around the approval of a governmental decree containing a broad set of measures mainly aimed at helping counter the cost-of-living crisis, but also including the construction of a waste-to-energy plant in Rome, a provision that always raised the fierce opposition from the 5-Star Movement. Mario Draghi – for a long time in contrast with the 5 Star leader Giuseppe Conte, but also firmly convinced that no government would be possible without the Movimento’s support – therefore took the decision to raise on the provision itself, both at the Senate and at the Chamber of Deputies, the confidence vote commonly known in the Italian system as the questione di fiducia.
The provision of political direction is guided by a relationship of “trust” which is meant to exist between the Italian Parliament and the Government. This fundamental element for the stability and health of government affairs oftentimes is checked and balanced by “confidence” or “no confidence” votes, which can be focused on the role of the Government as a whole or an individual minister. Other means of providing political direction include motions, day-orders giving instruction to the Government and, as it will be seen, parliamentary resolutions.
The next paragraphs will thus provide a chronological overview of the main steps that marked the fall of the Draghi Cabinet
Thursday July 14th
- 3:20 pm: The government won the confidence vote in the Senate, but the 5 Star Movement carried out its threat to boycott the vote. Nonetheless, a few days before Chamber regulations allowed the House to distinguish between a vote of confidence – which M5S parliamentarians had declared to be in favor of – and a negative vote on the content of the bill. However, differently from the Chamber of Deputies, the Upper House regulation envisages one single voting procedure, and thus the 5- Star dissent of July 14th has meant not participating in the confidence vote on the .
- 4 pm: Premier Mario Draghi went to the Quirinal Palace to meet President Sergio Mattarella.
- 6:30-6:55 pm: After Draghi’s private meeting with President Mattarella, the Council of Ministers, originally scheduled for 3.30 pm, was reconvened for 6.15 pm. During the meeting, the Prime Minister announced to Cabinet members that he would be seeing Mattarella to offer his resignation and explained the reasoning behind his decision. “Today’s vote in Parliament – Draghi said to his Cabinet ministers – is politically significant. The majority that had backed the national unity government since its inception is no more. The confidence pact underlying government action has ceased to exist. Presidency of the Council of Ministers, press release July 14th, 2022, n. 88 - available online.
- 7:40 pm: The President of the Republic has not accepted Draghi’s resignation and asked the Prime Minister to appear in Parliament to make a statement, with a view to allowing an assessment of the situation determined by the outcome of the next sitting in the Senate of the Italian Republic. Official Notice of President Mattarella, released after his meeting with Prime Minister Mario Draghi – available online.
Wednesday July 20th
- 9:30 pm: Prime Minister Mario Draghi addresses a Senate session on a confidence vote on his government. At 10.30 am the text of his statement is also delivered to the House of Deputies for parliamentary debate.
- 11 am: The Senate starts its debate on Draghi’s declarations, and two resolutions are presented. The first coming from Matteo Salvini’s Lega, signed by senators Roberto Calderoli and by the Lega’s Senate leader Massimiliano Romeo, calling for the party’s support to the action of a new government, still led by Mario Draghi but deeply renewed both in terms of political choices and in composition. The second resolution was instead presented by the former Lower House Speaker Pierferdinando Casini, suggesting that the declarations of the Prime Minister are integrally approved and asking Draghi to stay at the helm of the current government. After a few hours, Mario Draghi raises the confidence motion on the approval of Casini’s resolution. The Lega’s positions are therefore neither discussed nor put to vote.
- 7:30 pm: Mario Draghi wins the confidence resolution in the Senate, but on the right, Forza Italia and the League parties do not take part in the vote, also joined by the 5-Star Movement. The vote went 95-38 in favor of Draghi’s government in the 315-member Senate, a result severely preventing the executive from reaching in the future the absolute majority at the Upper House.
Thursday July 21st
- 9 am: The Prime Minister addresses the Chamber of Deputies announcing his decision to offer his definitive resignation to the President of the Republic. Translation of Prime Minister Draghi’s address to the Chamber of Deputies – available online.
- 10 am: Mario Draghi reaches the Quirinal Palace, where, received by Sergio Mattarella, he reiterates his resignation. This is followed by the Premier’s meeting with the President of the Senate, Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati, and the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Roberto Fico. Statement of Secretary General of the Presidency of the Italian Republic Ugo Zampetti – available online.
- 4:30-4:50 pm: President Mattarella formally dissolves the Parliament, calling for new elections to be held within 70 days according to the Italian Constitution. The latter also prescribes that the government will continue to manage ordinary administration and will only be allowed to carry out urgent acts or pass decrees or measures that have already been approved. Statement of President Mattarella following the Parliament’s dissolution – available online.
- 6:15 pm: The Council of Ministers formally suggests the Head of State to schedule new for September 25th. Presidency of the Council of Ministers, press release July 21st, n.89 - available online.
Prime Minister Draghi’s address to the Senate
Official Translation of Prime Minister Draghi’s address to the Senate – available online.
Official Translation of Prime Minister Draghi’s responses to the points raised by the Senate – available online.
Government Agenda – Prime Minister Draghi’s address to the Senate stressed the policy priorities of the Government:
- The definition of provisions to be included in the yearly budgeting bill;
- an economic policy to support citizens with respect to the increase of energy costs;
- the achievement of 55 objectives set out in the PNRR1 to obtain fundings worth 19 million euros from the European Commission (Next Generation EU program);
- the prosecution of the energy policy reform.
Prime Minister Draghi also stressed the importance of the many reformsto be completed, in the field of justice, competition policy, fiscal system and public procurement.
Implicit criticism to the members of the governing coalition – The address contains a chronicle of 1 “Piano Nazionale Ripresa e Resilienza” (PNRR – National Recovery and Resilience Plan) is a program to rebuild the Italian economy after the Covid-19 Pandemic Crisis. It is part of the Next Generation EU program, and it envisages investments and a consistent reform package. Government’s actions, describing how the coalition has progressively fallen apart with each party following its political interests. Mario Draghi mentioned specific measures, referring to specific episodes. Even if parties were not mentioned, Draghis’s criticism hit in particular the following parties:
- Lega, on the liberalization of beach concessions (reform of the allocation system) and on the support to the protestors against the new competition policy for taxis. «Firm support for the Government’s actions is now needed – not support for unauthorised, and sometimes violent, protests against the Government majority.»
- Forza Italia, on the reform of land register. « The reforms of the Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura [‘High Council of the Judiciary’], land register and beach concessions showed a gradual crumbling of the majority on the programme to modernise the country»
- Movimento 5 Stelle, on the citizenship income. « The ‘reddito di cittadinanza’ [‘citizenship income’] is an important measure to reduce poverty, but it can be improved to support those who need it most and reduce the negative effects on the labour market.»
The request to confirm the pact of trust – Prime Minister Draghi could have made a speech to communicate to the Senate his decision to resign. He chose to ask the Parliament to vote in order to decide wheter to renew the pact of trust and go on with the same governing coalition.
Italy does not need a pact of trust that is a facade, that disappears when faced with thorny measures. A new, sincere and concrete pact of trust is needed, like the one that, until now, has allowed us to change the country for the better. Parties and members of parliament – are you ready to rebuild this pact? Are you ready to confirm the effort you made during those first months, which then faded? I am only here today, in this Senate, at this point in the discussion, because Italians have asked for this. You do not have to give your answer to these questions to me, but to all Italians.
The Italian Context – Early Elections With the dissolution of the Chambers, President Mattarella called for early elections, in accordance with the provisions of Article 61 of the Italian Constitution. According to Article 61, legislative elections shall take place within 70 days of the dissolution of the Chambers. Italian citizens will vote on Sunday September 25th 2022.
Considering most recent electoral polls and the current electoral law2 (known as Rosatellum), the centerright coalition will likely be able to form a government. Such coalition would include Forza Italia, Lega e Fratelli d’Italia. Usually, the Prime Minister is indicated by the coalition party that reaches the highest shares of votes. In this case, it would be Fratelli d’Italia. The ability of the center-right coalition to form a government can only be called into question by the creation of a large opposing coalition, which should include all the center-left parties, all the center parties and the Movimento 5 Stelle. Such a broad coalition is unlikely since it would require an alliance between parties that do not share the same political vision and are in sharp contrast one with the other.
Contributions from: Edelman Italy
1 “Piano Nazionale Ripresa e Resilienza” (PNRR – National Recovery and Resilience Plan) is a program to rebuild the Italian economy after the Covid-19 Pandemic Crisis. It is part of the Next Generation EU program, and it envisages investments and a consistent reform package.
2 The Italian Electoral law establish a parallel voting system with around 40% of seats allocated with a “first-past-the post” method and around 60% of seats allocated with a proportional method.