By Emilio Parodi and Crispian Balmer
MILAN/ROME (Reuters) – Even for a country like Italy, which is steeped in political intrigue and used to revolving-door governments, the abrupt resignation of Prime Minister Mario Draghi has stunned the nation.
Draghi quit on Thursday after losing the support of three coalition partners, opening the way for an early election in the autumn at a time when Europe is confronting the triple challenge of war in Ukraine, energy shortages and high prices.
While many Italians were dismayed by the turmoil, some cheered the downfall of an unelected, former central banker. But most seemed amazed that one of the country’s most high-profile figures should be leaving in the midst of multiple crises.
“I think we are assholes, because we had a man who had the esteem of Europe, and now? We are an ungovernable country,” said Gianpaolo Gorrini, 58, a doctor in the northern city of Cuneo.
Besides the various international threats, the tumult has also coincided with an exceptional heatwave back home, the worst drought in more than 70 years and a resurgence of COVID-19.
“It simply isn’t the time to get rid of Draghi,” said Paolo Castellani, 58, who installs automatic distributor machines in Italy’s financial capital, Milan.
Draghi is Italy’s sixth prime minister in a decade, but he had such wide support in parliament and had such standing abroad, that many assumed he would survive all the political machinations until the end of his mandate in 2023.
“This is a day of mourning. It is a victory of the parties over democracy. It is an irresponsible gesture,” said Giovanni Alfano, 51, the manager in a telephone company in Milan.
Francesca Magri, 42, a tourist operator in the same city, questioned whether Draghi might have shown more flexibility in his showdown with his political partners. “But I don’t think he was wrong … He does not compromise,” she said.
Not everyone was upset about his imminent departure.
“We will pay for it, but I am happy. Draghi is an anti-democratic, warmongering oligarch,” said Giuseppe Clavarino, 19, a high school student from the northwestern city of Genova.
While Draghi has firmly backed Ukraine, sending weapons to Kyiv, many Italians are much more ambivalent, with a survey last month showing that the country was split between those who saw Russia or the West as the bigger obstacle to peace.
Other critics saw the former head of the European Central Bank as a friend of big business who was out of touch with households struggling to get by as prices soar.
“This has been a government totally at the service of the profit-driven economic system, to the detriment of the majority of Italian citizens,” said Enzo Perfetto, 63, a public sector worker who lives in the Tuscan province of Massa-Carrara.
Draghi’s many supporters would disagree, seeing him as a bulwark against the financial chaos which regularly threatens a country with the second largest debt-to-GDP ratio in Europe.
One Italian, Benedetta Pasero, who lives in Dubai, said the recent stability had encouraged her to consider returning home.
“But I’ve changed my mind (because of the crisis). At the end of my holidays, I will go back to where I live, abroad,” she told Reuters in the capital, Rome.
(Reporting across Italy by Roberto Mignucci, Emilio Parodi, Antonella Cinelli, Elvira Pollina, Valentina Za and Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alison Williams)