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Mario Draghi formally accepts invitation to be Italy's PM

Mario Draghi formally accepts invitation to be Italy's PM”

Mario Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, took charge of Italy's new government on Friday, and unveiled a cabinet that mixed unaffiliated technocrats with politicians from across his broad coalition.

President Sergio Mattarella asked Draghi to form a new government on February 3, and the respected economist has spent the last nine days assembling the widest possible majority in parliament.

Nicknamed "Super Mario", Mr Draghi has significant support... for now.

Draghi said that he has chosen Daniele Franco, general director of the Bank of Italy where Draghi was once the boss, as economy and finance minister.

Italy has been without a fully functioning government for nearly a month since former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party from Conte's coalition, which also included the M5S and centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

Draghi's ministers will need to formally swear in on Saturday before the new government will start to fully function, and will face votes of confidence in parliament the following week.

Known for his reserved demeanor, Draghi has kept out of sight during the political consultations and meetings with prospective Cabinet members.

Draghi will return to the presidential palace at midday on Saturday to be formally sworn in, a spokesman for Mattarella said.

After securing the support late Thursday of the final key player, the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), Draghi has nearly all the main parties on board, from leftists to the far-right League.

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Luigi Di Maio, a leader of the 5-Star Movement, will remain foreign minister, while Giancarlo Giorgetti, a senior figure in the League party, will be industry minister.

For his 23-member Cabinet, Draghi also transformed the environment ministry into a more developmentally oriented post for ecological transition, tapping Roberto Cingolani, an expert in nanotechnology, to run it.

Nevertheless, "it is hard to overstate the scale of the challenges that Draghi and Italy face", said Luigi Scazzieri of the Centre for European Reform.

Last year's shutdown and waves of subsequent restrictions plunged the eurozone's third-largest economy into its worst recession since World War II, and more than 420,000 people have lost their jobs.

The country is at a critical juncture as it battles both the medical and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, which struck Italy first outside of Asia nearly exactly one year ago.

Italy must also finalize its plan on how to use over 200 billion euros in grants and low-interest loans it is set to get from the EU's COVID-19 Recovery Fund.

Draghi's job looks easier than that faced by previous technocrat prime ministers, such as Mario Monti in 2011, who turned to severe, unpopular austerity measures during the debt crisis.

"But spending funds is not enough", noted Scazzieri, adding that the new premier "will find it just as challenging to enact long-called for reforms".

Highlighting Italy's political instability, Draghi's government is the 67th to take office since 1946 and the seventh in the last decade alone.



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