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Diletta De Luca: A crisis during another crisis: what is happening in Italy?

Ever since the Italian Republic was founded in 1946, the country has experienced 66 government crises, the latest of which had its rise a few weeks into 2021. To this day, most Italians remain uncertain and confused about the chronological events that took place and the reasons for political disorders, especially in the context of the challenges that the coronavirus outbreak imposed on the country.

It all started when Renzi, head of the political party Italia Viva, withdrew its support from the Conte II Cabinet, ruled by the former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Conte guided the country during the most challenging months of the coronavirus pandemic, and many criticisms accompanied his ruling. Renzi's political party's retraction of support generated a crisis since the Conte II Cabinet did not hold the majoritarian support it needed to stay in office. After a week of bargains and hypothetical accords, Prime Minister Conte resigned as there was no majoritarian support at the Parliament and the Senate. Afterwards, Mattarella (the current President of Italy) instituted a technical government led by Mario Draghi. His decision resulted from the failure to find a unanimous and middle-ground solution among the main parties. This is not the first time in Italy's history where the technical government has taken control of the country. Technical governments slightly differ from well-established technocratic institutions. In the Italian peninsula, such a type of government is formed in cases of political instability or external crises, and with the requirement that an overwhelming majority must support them. In such cases, the role of a leader is executed by an expert with no particular affiliations to any political party.

In this uncertain context, one thing is sure: Mario Draghi, the new technical leader, holds exceptional and notable political skills. Between 2011 and 2019, he was President of the European Central Bank, for which he is fondly remembered, particularly for his famous "Whatever it takes" approach. With his motto, Professor Draghi saved the Euro during the European Sovereign Debt Crisis that started in 2009. Overall, the general public took Draghi's mandate positively. Nevertheless, the main concern underlying Draghi's rule is rooted in the limited democratic legitimacy that the leader's role holds. In fact, Fratelli d'Italia, the only political party that did not grant support to Draghi's rule, claims that elections, as symbols of democratic accountability, are a requirement for establishing a new Cabinet.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to also consider the context within which this coup d’état took place. With a death toll of almost 100.000 people, Italy is one of the world's worst-hit countries by the coronavirus epidemic. Would elections do more good than bad within such a critical setting?

While the right to vote is both a fundamental human right and a prerequisite for democracies, the situation within which voting would take place would threaten the governmental institution and Italian citizens themselves. In-person elections would represent a risk for many since the virus's spread is still a daily concern for the country. Additionally, the formulation of a government through elections requires time, something that Italy does not currently have. With the ongoing vaccination plan and the important socio-economic decisions to be taken in the near future, going to the ballots seems rather unfeasible, impracticable, and inconvenient. Nevertheless, as of today, elections have been excluded, and the new Draghi's Cabinet was formally established.

The next few months will determine not only the future of Italy but of the whole world. Nevertheless, the new and sudden Italian governmental crisis exacerbated the pre-existing critical situation and threatened the much-needed recovery. A positive change seems quite unfeasible for now. Despite this, Italians will be hopefully waiting for the improvements that Mario Draghi can bring.

Written by Diletta De Luca, Amsterdam Chapter of European Horizons.

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