Early elections in Italy will take place on September 25, in a single day, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
President Mattarella dissolved Parliament, setting the voting date a week earlier than planned. He made this decision taking the Senate vote as a request to have the day of voting by September, and after the Union of Jewish Communities assured that the Rosh Hashanah holiday would not interfere with the elections in a negative manner.
If the political forces had asked for an extra week, the president would probably have agreed; but no one did.
The president accepted Mario Draghi’s resignation, which was not what he had planned to do. Until Wednesday’s disaster in the Senate, he intended to reject his resignation while dissolving Parliament, as President Scalfaro had done with Ciampi in 1993, to leave the government with almost full power until the new elections. It is possible that when he asked Draghi on Wednesday evening to postpone his resignation until the next day, Mattarella had not yet completely given up on this plan. In any case, in the end, the outcome of the vote in the Senate, with confidence passing by the slimmest of margins, convinced him to change his mind and accept the resignation, leaving the outgoing government limited to business as usual.
In this case, however, the limits of “ordinary administration” are wide, and the head of state, after receiving the presidents of the chambers, Fico and Casellati, chose to speak in person to clarify the situation with the utmost authority: “The government has limitations on its activities, but it has the tools to intervene regarding present needs and those that will arise. The period we are going through does not allow for pauses in the interventions that are indispensable to counter the effects of the economic and social crisis, particularly the rise in inflation.”
Mattarella repeated the word “indispensable” several times, and did not forget to include on the list the implementation of the NRPR and the fight against the pandemic.
In effect, the ordinary and the extraordinary matters almost overlap, and the government will have a very wide range of possible action over these 70 days. Not full, though: it will not be able to make moves on controversial matters.
This is precisely why the contentious article on the liberalization of taxis was taken out of the legislative decree on competition, and only full agreement will make it possible to pass the next legislative decree on public assistance. In the next two months, it will be necessary for the political forces to be responsible and to guarantee full support for the government, despite the fact that it is an outgoing executive and despite the electoral campaign that certainly won’t help from this point of view.
Mattarella chose to speak in person precisely in order to underscore the obligation to put the responsibility of government before the demands of the electoral struggle: “I hope that despite the intense and sometimes pointed clashes of the electoral campaign, there will be a constructive contribution from everyone.”
Draghi seemed to take up the President’s admonition himself. In the morning, in the House, where he was met with roaring and prolonged applause by the deputies, he was moved by the display: “Even central bankers have hearts.”
In the Senate on Wednesday, he had seemed at times very tense, at times visibly irritated. But after the drama was over, in front of the council of ministers, he recovered all the needed level-headedness: “We must maintain the same determination within the limits of the lines that have been drawn. In particular, we must deal with the emergencies related to the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, inflation and the cost of energy. We need to continue the implementation of the NRP. There will be time for goodbyes. Now let’s get back to work.”
In spite of the presence of the ministers who chose not to participate in the vote on Wednesday, causing the fall of the government, the mood is not too tense. Draghi knows that even those who followed party discipline did so without any enthusiasm. They have all vowed that they will follow President Mattarella’s instructions and offer full and loyal cooperation. Among both ministers and everyone else, it’s hard to think of another time when there was such a feeling of an abrupt and premature interruption, which some support and others don’t, but which, unlike in any other similar crisis, has left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.
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