New Italy PM Mario Draghi easily wins Senate backing for unity government

Italy's prime minister Mario Draghi addresses the Senate in Rome Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.
Italy's prime minister Mario Draghi addresses the Senate in Rome Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. Copyright Alberto Pizzoli/POOL photo via AP
By Euronews and AP
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The new government of national unity, drawing together elements across Italy's political spectrum, is also expected to win a similar vote in the lower house of the Italian parliament.


New Italian prime minister Mario Draghi easily won a confidence vote in the Senate on Wednesday night after vowing to do whatever it takes to lead Italy out of the coronavirus pandemic and rebuild its economy into a more sustainable and equitable one for future generations.

The Senate voted 262-40 with two abstentions to back Draghi’s government, which he formed at the request of Italy’s president to steer the country through the health and economic crises. A confidence vote Thursday in the lower Chamber of Deputies is also expected to give Draghi broad backing, since he has secured support from across Italy's political spectrum.

The votes of confidence are a formality in the formation of any new government in Italy.

The technocrat took the helm of a government of national unity last weekend, bringing together parties across Italy's political spectrum to help guide the country through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.

Draghi vowed an environmentally-conscious and digitally-reformed government programme in a 50-minute speech on Wednesday before the Senate ahead of the mandatory confidence vote later in the day.

"Today, unity isn’t an emotion, it’s a duty," Draghi said to applause as he concluded his speech. "A duty guided by what unites us all: love of Italy".

The country's last government, led by Giuseppe Conte, collapsed last month after former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew the support of his fledgling party Italia Viva (IV).

Despite surviving a confidence vote in both chambers of the Italian parliament, Conte ultimately resigned on January 26.

The appointment of Draghi, a former chief of the European Central Bank (ECB) for eight years credited with saving the euro, to the premiership by Italian president Sergio Mattarella has been widely praised.

Vowing a similar all-out effort to do whatever it takes to emerge from the pandemic which first erupted in Italy this time last year, Draghi said the principal aim of his administration was to confront the pandemic and safeguard Italians "with all means," and urged politicians to put aside their political interests in a spirit of sacrifice for future generations.

His speech to senators won plaudits from politicians both left and right. Democratic Party leader Nicola Zingaretti assured Italians their country was "in good hands". Right-wing League leader Matteo Salvini pledged his support, praising Draghi’s call for greater health care spending, tax cuts and public works projects.

"A great starting point," Salvini tweeted. "The League is on board".

Draghi will now lead a six-party government that sees the return of Salvini's party and Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia to the Cabinet.

The only party that has refused to take part in Draghi's administration is the far-right Brothers of Italy party, whose 19 senators all voted against him on Wednesday.

Party leader Georgia Melloni said her lawmakers would vote "no" in the confidence vote, citing in particular Draghi’s emphatic comments about ceding national sovereignty for European cohesion.

Some members of the Five Star Movement - an anti-establishment and Eurosceptic party that emerged in 2009 during the eurozone financial crisis which was also a partner in the last coalition government - also indicated they would not vote for him, with 15 ultimately deciding to vote against approving Draghi's government.

The move risks splitting the party, which became the largest in the Italian parliament following the national elections in 2018.

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