Mario Draghi Is the Problem, Not the Solution

The advent of a Draghi government speaks volumes about the nature of Italian (post-)democracy, and the perverse effects that the euro has had on the country’s economic, social and political fabric.

By Thomas Fazi and cross-posted from Brave New Europe.

Today’s vote of confidence in the lower house of Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, which follows yesterday’s vote in the Senate, will officially mark the beginning of Italy’s new government, led by former ECB president Mario Draghi. It’s little more than a formality at this point, given his cross-party support.

This comes on the heels of Matteo Renzi’s decision to pull the plug on the Conte II government, comprising chiefly the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the Democratic Party (PD. There’s been much speculation about Renzi’s move. Is this the unintended consequence of a failed gamble on his part, possibly aimed at gaining more leverage within a “renewed” Conte administration? Or was this his intended outcome all along? I think the latter scenario is the more likely one; Renzi is a lot of things, but stupid he ain’t. According to several sources, in fact, Draghi was directly involved in the machinations that led Conte to step aside, with Renzi eventually moving away only once he had obtained reassurance from Draghi (and, one must assume, president Mattarella himself) that the former central banker was ready to step in.

An even bigger question, then, is why Draghi is now willing to risk dragging his now-immaculate, larger-than-life reputation through the blood, sweat, and tears of day-to-day politics, when he could have waited another year to easily scoop up the seat of new president of the Republic? This position is an “institutional”, purportedly “non-partisan” role much more befitting for someone with Draghi’s CV and one that he is currently the favourite candidate for (given the current composition of Parliament). Is it, as left-leaning and Conte-supporting commentators argue, because Conte government’s timid social-interventionist measures – a temporary ban on layoffs, the part-renationalisation of highways operator Autostrade per l’Italia and bailing out of national carrier Alitalia – incurred the wrath the country’s business and financial elites?

Or perhaps it is just a gambit by Renzi gone terribly wrong, and Draghi has been called in as the only person who had any hope of cobbling together a majority. After all, a Draghi government would mean no snap elections, which would almost certainly yield a victory for the Salvini-led centre-right coalition – a prospect the establishment wants to avoid at all costs.

What I actually think more likely is that Giuseppe Conte was not considered strong enough to manage the “great reset” of Italy’s economy – which entails for example letting ailing firms die to allow the market to unleash its “creative destruction”, as Draghi hinted in his address to Parliament – that domestic and international elites consider necessary for the country, an endeavour that can only be pulled off by a “technical” – or technocrat-led – government.

Time will answer these questions. More interesting is what the prospect of a Draghi government tells us about the nature of Italian (post-)democracy, and the perverse effects that the euro has had on the country’s economic, social and political fabric. Draghi’s descent into politics has been accompanied by feverish cries of jubilation by the mass media – on a level that would have probably caused embarrassment even to North Korean state media. And virtually all parties in Parliament – including Salvini’s Northern League, which seems to have jettisoned what little was left of its “eurosceptic” posturing – have expressed their support. The tone of the discussion was captured well by the powerful governor of the Campania region, Vincenzo De Luca (PD), who compared Draghi to none other than “Christ”…

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