Draghi government's first year in office, time to take stock of its performance


Although formally, it will not be until 13 February 2022 when the Draghi government will complete its first year in office, and knowing that more than one is wondering whether, by that time, Draghi will no longer be President of the Council of Ministers, but the new Head of State, given that by that time the votes to elect the new tenant of the Quirinal Palace will have been completed, the time has come to take stock of his first year in office.  

We have already commented on previous occasions that it seems rather unlikely that Draghi will go from "premier" to head of state, although it cannot be denied that the possibilities exist, given that he meets the fundamental conditions to replace Sergio Mattarella: age (he has just turned 74, one more than Mattarella had when he was elected at the end of January 2015); prestige and an unblemished track record (there are his years in the Directorate General of the Treasury, in the government of the Bank of Italy and in the presidency of the European Central Bank); broad level of support (both among political forces and among the population); knowledge of the institutions, and a strongly pro-European disposition. 

But, whatever happens, what is certain is that Draghi will certainly be Prime Minister for almost a full year: ten months have already passed since he took office, he will be eleven months old while the vote for the new President of the Republic is taking place and, if he is finally elected as Mattarella's successor, he will take office two or three weeks short of his first anniversary as President of the Council of Ministers. Which, as we say, leads us to take stock because there is no small amount that has happened during this first year of government headed by this prestigious banker and economist. 

The first thing that must be acknowledged about Draghi is that his figure has brought a great deal of calm to the easily alterable Italian politics. Such is his level of prestige that no prominent politician has dared to question him: not even Salvini, who has been uninterruptedly leading all polls of voting intentions since September 2018. Even less was "il altro Matteo" (Renzi), who led the movement to make Draghi the new President of the Council of Ministers, going to do so. In reality, there were only two opposition forces, and very nuanced ones: the Brothers of Italy who chose to abstain rather than give "fiducia" to their government, and a minority sector of the Five Star Movement led by Barbara Lezzi who neither know what they think (as is usually the case with Five Star, the most discredited political formation in the entire parliamentary arc due to its extremely high level of incompetence) nor do anything against the Executive. 

In this regard, Draghi has wanted to assume the leading role within the government. In his weekly appearances before the press, he usually appears alone, unless a specific minister has to attend (most notably Roberto Speranza, as he is the head of health and therefore directly manages the vaccination campaign), and it is more than obvious that he intimidates journalists who ask him questions. They are not used to a person with such a level of preparation, and most of the time they ask him questions to get out of the way. 

From that point on, Draghi has shown enormous skill: he made a government where all the important portfolios (up to seven) would go to people he or Mattarella trusted (Cartabia, in Justice, and Lamorgese, in Interior, are "political daughters" of the veteran Sicilian politician and jurist, not Draghi's appointments), and the rest of the ministries went to the formations that were within the "maggioranza" that supported the Draghi government, These portfolios were distributed according to their specific parliamentary weight (Five Star took four because it has the most MPs, while Renzi's Italia Viva had to settle for one because it is the second smallest contributor after Speranza's party, Free and Equal). 

With a completely controlled parliament, Draghi has been executing his objectives one by one: the creation of his own "Recovery Fund" with the commitment to carry out fundamental reforms, such as that of the justice system (still pending a vote in the Senate) and with it a request for a very large sum of money from the European Union; the swift implementation of the vaccination campaign through the implementation of the so-called "green pass", with which it intends to increasingly round up those who refuse to be vaccinated; and, finally, the signing of a bilateral treaty with Macron's France through which an Italian-French axis is formed to confront Germany and its allies in central and northern Europe (the so-called "frugal countries").  

In relation to the latter, it seems clear that Draghi, unlike the previous government, does not intend to go hand in hand with the Spanish government at all: he knows that its president (Pedro Sánchez) and his government, in addition to being a coalition without an absolute majority, has at its head a leader (Sánchez himself) who does not have the slightest entity to talk to the Roman banker and economist on a one-to-one basis. In other words, he believes that Italy should form a bloc with France because Spain is only lagging behind, and even further behind given the extremely high level of incompetence, as well as the lack of sense of State, of its political class as a whole (Draghi knows well that with Casado there will be more of the same, if he ever reaches the Moncloa, so it is better not to think of joint operations with the Spaniards). 

Now the Draghi government only needs to approve the General State Budget Law (PGE), which should not be particularly complicated, although there are two very thorny issues: what to do with the "citizenship income" (and here he knows he needs the votes of the Five Star Movement, author of this "citizenship income"), and also what to do with the issue of the retirement age (recovery or not of the Fornero Law?). It will not be an easy matter: both Renzi and the centre-right are against the "citizenship income", while the Five Star Movement and the Lega want nothing to do with bringing back the Fornero Law. But they will surely agree to a pact, because if Draghi no longer receives the support of the "maggioranza", he will go home quietly and this will force early elections that neither Five Star Movement, nor PD, nor Italia Viva, nor a few other political forces want to hear about. 

Finally, it should be noted that this first year with Draghi as President of the Council of Ministers has given the eurozone's third largest economy the chance to regain a lot of prominence on the international stage: for a few days, on account of the G-20 meeting (the world's most powerful economies plus the emerging ones), Rome, Draghi's home city, became the centre of attention of all the media, and this was because Draghi chaired the G-20 meeting. 

In a little over a month's time we will know whether there will be a second year of the Draghi government or not, because it is still up in the air that he may be the new President of the Republic. For the writer of these lines the forecast is that he will not be the one finally elected, but it is equally true that he is one of the few figures who can rally so much support around him. And we already know that there is a precedent of a former Governor of the Bank of Italy and Prime Minister who ended up as President of the Republic: this was the Livorno-born Ciampi, President between 1999 and 2006. And it should be remembered that Draghi was a very close collaborator of Ciampi. Of course, with polls in hand, how would Draghi, who holds a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, fare, entrusting him to form a government to a Matteo Salvini who left his career halfway through to enter politics at the age of twenty? And how would the coexistence between the two be, one being a strong pro-European and the other a standard-bearer of anti-Europeanism, even if he now abjures it? 

Let's not get ahead of ourselves: the forecast at the moment is that Draghi will be Prime Minister until mid-2023, and that Salvini will be the one to replace him because a victory of the centre-right in the next "political" elections seems assured, with Salvini's party having the highest voting intentions. The only certainty is that Draghi is doing an impeccable job, and that Spain should follow the model of the Italian Constitution regarding the functions of the Head of State: the "ceremonial" role assumed by our monarch prevents us from having a Draghi in Spain. And you can be sure that we also have people as valid as the Roman banker and economist (perhaps not so much, but very close): the only problem is that our constitutional system does not make it possible. But who would have thought our "constituent fathers", back in 1977-78, that Spanish politics would one day end up becoming "Italianised".  

In any case, in the matter of governability, luck has fallen on Italy's side, and not on Spain's. They have put their own leader at the head of the government. They have put their best man at the head of the government, and the consequences are already there: by the end of 2023, our neighbours will have recovered (and even surpassed) the GDP they had in February 2020 (before the coronavirus began), while we can wait three, four or five years until we finally achieve it. And Draghi, meanwhile, to modernise his country, to which he has dedicated a lifetime in different positions of relevance: lucky them.

Pablo Martín de Santa Olalla Saludes is Professor at the Centro Universitario ESERP and author of the book Historia de la Italia republicana, 1946-2021 (Madrid, Silvia de la Rosa, 1946-2021).