Italy's parties enthuse over Draghi, 5-Star postpones online vote

Italy's Prime Minister designate Mario Draghi looks on during the second round of his talks on forming a new government, in Rome, Italy, February 9, 2021. Ufficio Stampa Camera dei Deputati/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.


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ROME (Reuters) - Italy's political parties on the left and right enthused at the prospect of backing a Mario Draghi government after meeting the prime minister-designate on Tuesday as he wrapped up his second round of consultations.

Draghi, 73, a former head of the European Central Bank, was expected to report back to Italy's head of state and propose his list of cabinet ministers by Thursday.

However, late on Tuesday the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, the largest group in parliament, postponed an online ballot of its members which was due to take place over the next two days to decide the party's stance.

It remains unclear whether the postponement will also push back the formation of Draghi's government.

While most of 5-Star's top brass is keen to back Draghi, many of its rank and file as well as some of its lawmakers are reluctant to get behind a former ECB chief.

"Let's wait a minute, until he (Draghi) has got his ideas clear," the movement's founder, former comedian Beppe Grillo, said in a video on Facebook.

Shortly afterwards, 5-Star leader Vito Crimi said in a television interview that the party was "taking a little time" to get a get a clearer picture of Draghi's programme. Neither Grillo nor Crimi said when the online vote would now take place.

Earlier in the day, Crimi said after meeting Draghi that he had received important reassurances over his intentions on welfare policy and the transition to renewable energy, two priorities dear to the party.

Draghi also gave no suggestion he planned to apply for a loan from the euro zone's bailout fund, something 5-Star staunchly opposes, Crimi said after the last of Draghi's meetings with all the groups in parliament.

Previously, Draghi had secured the virtually unconditional backing of the right-wing League, the centre-left Democratic Party and the conservative Forza Italia led by the 84-year-old, four-time former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

All the party chiefs said they were pleased with Draghi's ideas on how to stimulate economic growth, safeguard the environment and tackle the coronavirus crisis.

"We are all required to give up calculations, tactics and electoral interests to put the salvation of the country first," Berlusconi told reporters.

While there seems no doubt that Draghi will get a majority, he faces a tough task putting together cabinet team and policy programme to please the long-time bitter political enemies that are now queuing up to join his coalition.

The parties said after their meetings that there had been no discussion of ministerial posts.

Draghi could either fill his cabinet with non-partisan technocrats, or pick representatives of each party to be more sure of their support when tough policy decisions crop up. Many commentators expect a mix of technocrats and politicians.

Political sources told Reuters that among the favourites for the key post of economy minister are Daniele Franco, currently the number two at the Bank of Italy, and Dario Scannapieco, vice president of the European Investment Bank.

(Additional reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Crispian Balmer)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021


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