ROME – As Mario Draghi worked to secure the backing in Parliament he needs to govern, Italy's outgoing leader on Thursday warned against the former European Central Bank chief's opting to lead the pandemic-battered country with a team of technocrats instead of politicians.
Caretaker Premier Giuseppe Conte told reporters he had a long, “very open” talk a day earlier with Draghi, shortly after Italy’s president asked the banking expert to try to form a government to replace Conte’s collapsed coalition.
While President Sergio Mattarella has said the new government mustn’t be identified with any political formula, Draghi and his Cabinet must win confidence votes in both chambers of Parliament to take power.
Draghi must rely on political support to pass measures aimed at helping Italy emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and revive its economy, already stagnant before being pummeled by lockdown measures.
He hasn't said if he'd draw his Cabinet from politically-independent technocrats, politicians or both.
Conte, saying he'll continue to “work for the good of the country,” offered his view of a success formula for the next government.
“I hope for a political government that is solid and has sufficient cohesion to be able to make political choices, because the urgencies of the country need political choices, they can’t be entrusted to technocrats,” Conte said.
A day earlier, Draghi expressed enthusiasm for setting to work quickly on plans on how Italy could employ more than 200 billion euros (dollars) in European Union funding to repair its health system and revive its economy, especially through institutional reforms.
Conte's appeal might help rally crucial support for Draghi from Parliament's largest party, the populist 5-Star Movement.
Already splintering before the latest political crisis and with its roots in euro-skepticism, the Movement risks further division over Draghi, a figure identified with European Union financial policies.
The Movement anchored back-to-back Conte governments starting in June 2018, until his latest coalition collapsed last month after a tiny centrist ally, led by former Premier Matteo Renzi, withdraw support.
Conte also pitched to two other parties from his unraveled coalition, the center-left Democrats and the leftist Free and Equal Party. His call for a political alliance appeared to indicate Conte intended to stay in politics, even while out of office.
Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri, a prominent Democrat, quickly seized on Conte's appeal to what the minister called the "the democratic, progressive and pro-Europe forces” that could help Draghi clinch the support needed to govern.
Draghi snared pledges of support as he began meetings on Thursday afternoon with delegations from some of Italy's tiniest parties, which are now in the opposition.
Among those were Sen. Emma Bonino's +Europe - Action party. A Draghi government would be a “real novelty for the country,” the staunchly pro-Europe senator said.
On Friday, Draghi will pitch for support from bigger parties, including the far-right Brothers of Italy, which has been growing in popularity and whose leader Giorgia Meloni insists new elections is what Italy needs now. Also meeting with Draghi will be the center-right forces of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who could consider backing Draghi.
Leaders of Parliament's two biggest parties will sit down with Draghi on Saturday. After the 5-Star Movement, the next-biggest force is the League of Matteo Salvini, who has disdained prospects for a Draghi government.