Mario Draghi Formally Accepts Post Of Italian Prime Minister

Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Mario Draghi

Mario Draghi formally accepts invitation to be Italy's PM

The vote to back the former European Central Bank boss, and "choose the European path" as Di Maio put it, represents a major turn-around for the once fiercely anti-establishment movement.

- Former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi was formally appointed Italy's new prime minister on February 12, charged with guiding his country through the devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

It also reflects another unexpected decision by the right-wing Lega party, led by Matteo Salvini, who has thrown his support behind Draghi's efforts to form a new coalition.

The 73-year-old, known as Super Mario for doing "whatever it takes" to save the eurozone, has put together a national unity government involving nearly all Italy's political parties.

However, some key posts went to non-affiliated technocrats, including Daniele Franco, director general of the Bank of Italy, who was named as economy minister, and Roberto Cingolani, a physicist and IT expert, who was handed the new role of minister for green transition.

Italy has been without a fully functioning government for nearly a month since former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party from Conte's coalition, which also included the M5S and centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

They will likely be sworn in at the weekend, opening the way for debates in both houses of parliament, where Draghi will unveil his policy plans and face votes of confidence - a formality given his cross-party support. Earlier this week, the far-right League also indicated that it would support the new government, which is also backed by the center-left Democratic Party and center-right Forza Italia, led by Berlusconi.

"Today, our members once again demonstrated great maturity, loyalty to institutions and a sense of belonging to the country", Luigi Di Maio, former 5Star political chief and ex-foreign affairs minister, wrote on Facebook.

Draghi may report back to President Sergio Mattarella to tell him he has dropped his "reservation" about accepting the premier mandate and hand him a list of proposed ministers later on Friday.

Italy has high hopes for its new leader, who himself has no political power base but can count on his experience during years working in the Italian civil service, as well as his banking career.

Last year's shutdown and waves of subsequent restrictions plunged the eurozone's third-largest economy into its worst recession since World War II, and more than 420,000 people have lost their jobs.

But "it is hard to overstate the scale of the challenges that Draghi and Italy face", said Luigi Scazzieri, of the Centre for European Reform.

The virus remains rife and Conte's cabinet, in one of its last acts, on Friday tightened curbs in four regions and extended a ban on travelling between regions.

The Draghi-led government includes fierce political rivals, who at least for the moment - and with the promise of 200 billion euros in European Union recovery funds - are agreeing to put aside their differences.

But disputes over how to spend the money, between demands for longstanding structural reform and short-term stimulus, brought down the previous government.

"But spending funds is not enough", noted Scazzieri, adding that the new premier "will find it just as challenging to enact long-called for reforms".

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