Italian politics is about to get very interesting - volatile? - again. It all hangs on a decision Mario Draghi has to make in Jan: whether to transition to the Presidency or remain PM until 2023. His decision will carry big implications for Italy - & Europe 1/
Since becoming PM, Draghi has moved steadfastly to articulate & implement reforms in exchange for Italy’s €191.5 billion in EU pandemic recovery funds. He has also elevated Italy's voice in EU debates - & not simply those related to economic policy 2/
But Italy’s political world is now consumed with horse-trading over the election of its next president, who must be elected by MPs to replace Sergio Mattarella in late Jan, assuming he is not re-elected for a second term - an option he seems determined to avoid 3/
The bookies favourite at 17-10 is Draghi. If Draghi were to run, he'd easily command enough support by political parties on left & right. @GiuseppeConteIT @matteosalvinimi & @GiorgiaMeloni have all suggested they could support Draghi - & have many motivations to do so 4/
Their most imp is fear that Draghi’s pre-eminence & authority is weakening them & sucking oxygen out of the political debate. Both 5Star & Salvini’s Lega have lost support as part of Draghi's grand coalition 5/
They have struggled to maintain their identity & have been forced to compromise, giving way on some of their flagship policies they put into effect when in Govt in 2018-19 6/
For Meloni & Salvini an additional incentive is that supporting the winning candidate & an establishment candidate will boost their credibility when it comes to forming a Govt after the next election, which the right is likely to win 7/
Italy's president has more power than many EU heads of state - & has significant leeway in appointing prime minister's & ministers on the indication of the PM. Not supporting Draghi for President could therefore be an unwise move 8/
For @GiorgiaMeloni there is a further incentive: Draghi’s departure from Palazzo Chigi would mean a new PM, leading to a weaker Govt which could make early elections more likely, in which she is expected to make huge gains 9/
.@EnricoLetta who now leads @pdnetwork would prefer Draghi to stay on as PM until 2023 to further advance recovery fund reforms. This is bc @pdnetwork has benefited from being closely aligned with Draghi, taking control of Italy’s five major cities after local elections 10/
But even Letta wd support Draghi if it looked like he would win. So the Presidency is probs there for Draghi should he want it, but he continues to send ambivalent signals, declining to answer questions “out of respect” for the incumbent. But he also hasn't ruled himself out 11/
Draghi’s calculations are likely tied up with an assessment over which role - PM until 2023 or President for 7 yrs - will better enable him to anchor Italy’s reforms & steer the country towards a virtuous cycle of growth 12/
With governing becoming more diff as parties seek to increase their visibility, opposition over budget & likelihood of a difficult winter given rising cases of Covid-19 & opposition to new restrictions, Draghi could be reaching end of his honeymoon period as head of coalition 13/
He may therefore prefer to move into a presidential role before things take a turn for the worse, as they did for technocratic PM Mario Monti at a similar point in his Govt – a fate Draghi’s advisers say he is keen to avoid 14/
This would seem to kill a scenario mooted by some, such as Confindustria President Carlo Bonomi, that would see Draghi continue in his current role & return as PM by one or several parties after elections in 2023 15/
Yet if Draghi were to run & be elected President, his ultimate goal would be to ensure a close ally - what some in Rome describe as a “Draghi avatar” – ultimately succeeds him 16/
Someone with the profile of economy minister Daniele Franco who has worked closely with Draghi at Bank of Italy & in Govt on recovery plan & economic reforms, or former Vodafone CEO & digitisation minister Vittorio Colao 17/
But while they could in theory guarantee continuity of reforms set in motion by Draghi & oversee implementation of recovery plan until 2023, in practice Franco or any “Draghi avatar” would not have Draghi's moral authority & would struggle to keep coalition & reforms on track 18/
One key consideration for MPs as they cast their secret ballot on who should be President will be their desire to avoid early elections, as a parliamentary reform in 2020 means 1/3 of parliamentary seats will now be slashed in the next legislature 19/
5Star’s current polling - which has halved since elections in 2018 - suggests they might lose nearly 3/4 of their current seats. In fact, all parties except for Brothers of Italy stand to lose seats after next election 20/
So backbenchers who don’t expect to be reselected will be tempted to vote for any candidate who they think guarantees the legislature will continue to 2023 21/
Even Salvini will want some time to improve his standing & his party’s polling before an election is held, or risk ceding the leadership of the right-wing alliance to Meloni. Again this is imp - as the right is likely to win power in 2023 (or Spring 2022 if an early vote) 22/
As it’s a secret ballot, some MPs could therefore opt not to vote for Draghi fearing that his departure from Govt will destabilise the current coalition & ultimately trigger elections which they're desperate to avoid 23/
But even if Draghi remains in post as PM, the political manoeuvrings over the Presidency which are now heating up could cause tensions in the ruling coalition & lead to a reconfiguration & possible cabinet reshuffle 24/
So Draghi’s decision – & that of MPs - is not an easy or an obvious one to make. Bxl & EU capitals have taken their eyes of Italy, content with impact Draghi has had. They should pay more attention. Things are about to get very lively again indeed…


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More from @Mij_Europe

26 Nov
What a sorry sight to see two great countries, or at least their leaders, fighting like school-kids only two days after the calamity in the Channel in which at least 27 refugees died. Both Johnson & Macron merit some of the blame. But this is mostly down to Johnson 1/
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24 Nov
A Downing Street spokesperson:
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19 Nov
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11 Nov
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9 Nov
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