Italy’s president asks former ECB chief to form emergency gov’t

Rome, Feb 2 (efe-epa).- Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Tuesday summoned the former head of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi, for discussions on assembling an emergency government to guide Italy through the Covid-19 pandemic and accompanying economic crisis after the failure of a last-ditch effort to resuscitate the administration that collapsed last week.

Mattarella appealed to “all the political forces of the country” to support a non-political government of notables to “confront the present emergency.”

He said that the only other option, calling early elections, would hamper the effectiveness of the government during a crucial period of the battle against Covid-19, which has killed nearly 89,000 people in Italy.

The number of confirmed cases stands at 2.56 million, while the effect of pandemic lockdowns is estimated to have shrunk Italian gross domestic product by roughly 10 percent.

Last Friday, Mattarella asked the leader of the lower house of parliament, Roberto Fico, to promote a reconciliation among the erstwhile coalition parties that would allow Giuseppe Conte to remain as prime minister.

Conte resigned last Tuesday, acknowledging that the administration no longer had a working majority following the departure from the coalition of ex-Premier Matteo Renzi’s centrist Italy Alive (IV) party.

Fico is a prominent figure in the reformist 5-Star Movement (M5S), the largest component in the coalition, which also included the center-left Democratic Party (PD) and the leftist LeU.

A new parliamentary faction, the Europeanists, gave their backing to the effort to revive the Conte government and representatives of M5S, PD and LeU entered talks with IV on Monday in pursuit of consensus on a new governing agenda.

Though the discussions were described as positive, sources close to the process told Efe Tuesday that prospects for agreement had dimmed due to IV’s demands.

Renzi took to social media on Tuesday to fault M5S, PD and LeU even before Fico formally reported to Mattarella on the failure of the effort.

“We take note of the ‘nyet’ (Russian for ‘no’) of the colleagues of the ex-coalition,” Renzi wrote.

M5S chairman Vito Crimi was quick to respond, asserting that obtaining more Cabinet posts for IV had been Renzi’s “most pressing” motive in forcing the collapse of the coalition.

Renzi demanded changes to Conte’s plans for how to use 220 million euros ($267.4 million) in aid from the European Union’s Recovery Fund.

More fundamentally, he has pushed for Italy to tap the 37 billion euros in loans available under the European Stability Mechanism, an option rejected by M5S because the loans would come with strings attached – such as requirements for additional austerity measures in nation that has seen per capita income decline since 1999.

Polls show that right-wing parties, such as former Interior Minister Matteo Savini’s League and the Brothers of Italy, would benefit the most from holding early elections.

Draghi, 73, led the ECB from 2011-2019, earning plaudits for his efforts to defend the euro. EFE lsc-mr/dr

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