Mario Draghi has moved closer towards becoming Italian prime minister after two formerly anti-euro parties signalled they would be willing to support him as leader of a government of national unity.
The leaders of the League and Five Star Movement, the two largest parties in the current parliament, both softened their initial positions on backing Draghi following meetings with the former president of the European Central Bank over the weekend.
Draghi, who has no history in electoral politics but is highly regarded for his handling of the European debt crisis when at the ECB, has been given the task of taking charge of the country’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and a brutal recession.
On Wednesday President Sergio Mattarella asked Draghi to attempt to form a unity government after the country’s last coalition collapsed and was unable to reach a new agreement to rebuild a working parliamentary majority.
Draghi will hold a new round of consultations with Italy’s political parties on Monday and Tuesday ahead of potentially announcing the formation of a new government by the end of this week.
It remains to be seen whether he will choose to bring in both the League and the Five Star Movement into his government, But if both parties support him then Draghi would command a far larger majority than that of the previous coalition government led by Giuseppe Conte.
After meeting Draghi on Saturday, Matteo Salvini, the League leader who once toured Italy wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “no more euro”, said that he would be willing to sign up to a government “that goes to Brussels keeping its head high in the name of the national interest”.
In doing so he appeared to drop a condition he outlined just the day before to the effect that the League would not be willing to serve in any government that included his former allies in the Five Star Movement.
“We don’t think saying no gets you anywhere,” Salvini said. “The best interests of the country must come before any personal interest.”
One senior League lawmaker told the Financial Times that there was now a unified desire across the party for Draghi to become prime minister and then to take over from Mattarella as president when his term expires next year.
“The League has been aligning itself towards supporting Draghi, even the most extreme wing,” the person said. “What we want is increasingly clear: Draghi as prime minister now and then Draghi as president of the republic in a year’s time, after he has led the country to elections.”
Senior figures in the Five Star Movement, the largest party in the current parliament which served in the coalition government that collapsed last month, have also softened their language on the prospect of supporting a government led by Draghi.
Vito Crimi, the party’s interim leader, had last week said it could not support a technocratic government, but following a meeting with Draghi he announced that the Five Star Movement was considering “whether the conditions are right” to support him.
Beppe Grillo, the television comedian and political activist who co-founded the Five Star Movement and previously railed against Italy’s membership of the single currency, also suggested the party could be ready to support the former ECB president.
One Five Star MP said that Grillo’s standing inside the party would be likely to convince wavering lawmakers to back Draghi.
“Beppe Grillo has spoken, and when he takes the field everyone stands to attention. He has the power to completely change the line of the Five Star parliamentary group,” the MP said.
Draghi is already guaranteed the support of the centre-left Democratic party and former prime minister Matteo Renzi’s Italia Viva party, which last month brought down the Conte government after withdrawing its support.
Matteo Ricci, a former deputy leader of the Democratic party, said that the shift to supporting Draghi would be easier for the Five Star Movement than for the League, which has until recently remained far more hostile to Brussels.
“Over the years the Five Star Movement made a pro-European choice, the League has never made this choice,” he said. “Salvini’s past with Le Pen and the other European sovereigntists speaks for itself.”