Much of the response to Mario Draghi’s appointment as Prime Minister of Italy has focused on the technocratic nature of his government. Martin J. Bull argues that while Draghi may be a technocrat, his programme is already generating a significant realignment within Italian politics.
The new Italian government, led by Mario Draghi, former President of the European Central Bank and Governor of the Bank of Italy, received resounding votes of confidence in both the Chamber of Deputies and Senate on 17-18 February. This technocrat with no parliamentary experience, has put together a government that includes eight technical ministers and has the support of all the political parties except one, the far right ‘Brothers of Italy’, which has opted to stay in opposition.
Draghi the technocrat
Much is being made of the technocratic nature of this government of ‘national unity’ whose origins lie in the collapse, in January, of the second government of Giuseppe Conte and the subsequent failure of the parties to form an alternative. In view of the urgent challenges facing Italy on various fronts, the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, rather than dissolve parliament and call elections, opted for a Draghi solution to see Italy through to its next scheduled elections in March 2023.
Draghi laid out to the Senate a comprehensive set of goals related to managing the pandemic, expanding the roll-out of the vaccine programme and finalising the use of the huge recovery fund (financed by the EU), in addition to tax, environmental and judicial reforms, alongside other measures to try and protect employment. The sheer scale of this reform programme (which Draghi dubbed ‘New Reconstruction’, echoing the early post-war governments) and its timeline makes this technocratic government stand out from its predecessors (Ciampi, Dini, Monti), which have tended to be more narrowly reform-specific and time-limited. Furthermore, in stark contrast with the last technocratic government (of Mario Monti, 2011-13) where the main task was, on the back of the Great Recession, administering severe expenditure cuts, Draghi’s chief purpose is to work out how best to spend Italy’s share of the EU’s recovery fund, a staggering 203 billion euros.
The politics behind Draghi
All of this changes somewhat the apparent technical nature of this government. Draghi himself refuses to be pigeon-holed and says that his is simply ‘the government of the country’, rejecting the idea that he is there because of ‘the failure of politics’, and insisting that none of the parties should compromise on their identities. Yet, Draghi’s very appointment already appears to be having a momentous impact on the parties, and we could, in the coming period, witness a realignment of Italy’s political competition, a trend which already began with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, that competition had been dominated by a rising anti-establishment, anti-EU,…