With the ongoing political crisis in Italy coming to a crescendo with the push to have the former head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, lead the next government, New Europe sat down in Rome with Massimo Ungaro, a member of parliament from Italia Viva, to discuss a possible Draghi government. Italia Viva is a political group that has always supported the option to involve the former ECB leader in order to solve the current political impasse.
New Europe (NE): How do you think Draghi could get a majority in the parliament?
Massimo Ungaro (MU): I’m quite optimistic that he could get clear support; clearly, we will support him. Forza Italia and the Democratic party will, as well. On the right side, we know that the Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia) will not support him, but Matteo Salvini came out saying he will keep the option open. On the left, LEU (Liberi e Uguali) will, I think, agree in the end. Now, the big issue is the attitude of the Five Star Movement. I’m in touch with a lot of MP’s from that group and, honestly, I think in the end they will support him. Maybe some of them will leave the party, but I don’t think it will be more than 20 or 30, maximum. Now we are seeing a lot of drama, but if you see many of the statements from day, they are already different from the ones from yesterday. If Draghi is not supported, the only option open is an early election, But this is not the best option at this moment because of the ongoing pandemic crisis.
NE: We saw many countries like the US, Portugal, and the Netherlands go ahead with a national vote. Is it really that bad of a solution?
MU: The US has postal voting and here (in Italy), we don’t. The pandemic here was very bad and we are a country with an extremely high number of daily casualties. We have a recovery plan to send to Brussels and the President of the Republic (Sergio Mattarella) explained for five long minutes why it would be bad for the country to go to elections now. It is not only the pandemic, but it is also the recovery plan, which is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our country to grow again and think about future generations. This is the big challenge for Italian politics, and it has to be handled in the right way.
NE: Is this is going to be a political or technical government or both?
MU: Every government has to be supported by political parties. My opinion is that we should not have only neutral people that are not coming from politics, as it was the case for the Monti government in 2011. That was a period of high financial stress. Here, we don’t have an immediate financial problem. I think it would be good to have political representatives in the government in order to ensure that the parties are fully involved in the cabinet. I can see Draghi nominating 3 or 4 important ministers then he will have to discuss with parties to assign the other posts.
NE: Is this the outcome you wanted?
MU: No. Our ideal scenario would be to continue with the same majority and have a real political government, but without Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, because with him there was a problem of trust and a gradual deterioration of the relationship. We were even ready to accept Conte, but together with some of our strong points – the use of ESM, the end of welfare in order to push investments, the management of heathcare and schools – we want a country funded on meritocracy. This option was always on our mind, but it wasn’t our preferred option.
NE: Why do you think the Brothers of Italy are going to stay out of the game?
MU: All Giorgia Meloni (the head of the Brothers of Italy) has to do is win to be the opposition to a party that is seen as being led by progressive bankers and people close to Europe This will help her rhetoric and it will increase her chances of winning in 2023.
NE: How long could the Draghi government last?
MU: I hope it will last till the end of the mandate, but I’m not sure it will be able to last for so long. Maybe there will be a change in one year after the election of the President of the Republic and to carry on until 2023 without going to an election. This is the most likely scenario. If think it is possible that Draghi could be the next President of the Republic, so he will have to leave his post.
NE: Some Italians are scared of Draghi because they think he would cut the social and pension benefits, together with the unemployment wage.
MU: I don’t think it will be the case this time. There is not a call for austerity and Draghi has already said many times what he thinks about future generations and social issues. We are in a very different situation now than in 2011. He is not representing the troika and he even said this summer that we should expand out debt, we just have to be sure that it is good debt and not bad debt.
NE: In Italy, after the end to this political crisis, we could see a lot of anger directed against Senator (former Prime Minister) Matteo Renzi. Why?
MU: Maybe the fact that our ministers resigned was not understood. Italians probably didn’t get that this crisis was a long time in coming. Now we have to explain why this crisis happened. This is the danger of confusing stability with immobilism. A government has to be there to do the best things and I reject the idea that in times of crisis we should not change governments. Look at France, it changed the prime minister six months ago. With the last government, we were not going in the right direction.
NE: In terms of future alliances for your party, with whom could you cooperate?
MU: I hope we are going to do something together with Azione by Carlo Calenda and + Europa in the next years. It is completely impossible to do have any cooperation with Salvini and Meloni. Their political project is very dangerous. If such a negative deal happens, I will leave Italia Viva. With Forza Italia, we can also work with in this government. One of our most important goals is to have a pro-Europe President of the Republic.