Italy’s Draghi wins first confidence vote

By Giada Zampano

ROME (AA) – Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi won his first confidence vote in the Senate late Wednesday after unveiling an ambitious reform plan aimed at bringing the country out of an unprecedented health and economic emergency.

Draghi’s new Cabinet, which was sworn in on Saturday after obtaining the support of a broad but fractious coalition, won the confidence ballot with 262 votes in favor, 40 against and two abstentions.

“Thanks for your esteem,” Draghi said after a long parliamentary debate that mostly praised his one-hour address. “But it now needs to be confirmed by facts and by the results of this government.”

Italy's new premier earlier Wednesday detailed his ambitious reform plan, which focused on leading the country out of a devastating COVID-19 pandemic and a daunting recession.

Draghi – a former central banker and highly-regarded technocrat – was called in by Italian President Sergio Mattarella earlier this month to solve a chaotic political crisis which risked plunging Italy into further political uncertainty just as it is battling a second pandemic wave and a deep economic crisis.

His new government – born last week after complex negotiations among different and often conflicting parties – is expected to easily win lawmakers’ support also in the Lower House, where a second confidence vote will be held Thursday.

Draghi started his speech in the Senate with a strong call for political unity, asking all parties to work together in the name of the “love for Italy.”

"Our main duty is to fight the pandemic in any way and to safeguard the lives of our fellow citizens," he said, showing some emotion when he mentioned the victims of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has killed more than 92,000 people in the country.

"Today, unity is not an option, unity is a duty," he stressed as he was interrupted by lawmakers’ applause several times.

Draghi pledged that his government will ensure a long-term vision and focus on key reforms aimed at boosting Italy’s ailing economy, which is struggling to exit its worst recession since World War II.

The Italian premier listed his top priorities, including a quick and efficient vaccination campaign and an effective plan on how to spend more than €200 billion (US$240.8 billion) earmarked by the EU to help rebuild the Italian economy.​​​​​​​

"As in the immediate post-war period, today we have the possibility, or rather the responsibility, to launch a new reconstruction," he said in his speech, which ended with a standing ovation.