Both chambers of the Italian parliament have supported votes of confidence in the new government of Mario Dragghi by substantial majorities. It received the backing of 262 votes to 40 opposed, while the Chamber of Deputies voted by 535 to 56 votes in favour of the government.
The 73-year-old former head of the European Central Bank formed a government last week including all major national parties, apart from the fascist Fratelli d’Italia, from the far-right Lega to the social democratic Democrats (PD). Some key ministries will be led by non-aligned technocrats. The business lobby group Confindustria and the trade unions promised the government their support.
Dragghi delivered a programmatic address to the Senate last Wednesday in which he invoked “national unity” and “national responsibility.” He said that no adjective was necessary to define his government. It is “simply the country’s government,” he claimed. He appealed to the population’s “spirit of sacrifice” and the “duty of citizenship,” and added, “Today, unity is not an option, but an obligation.”
However, his government does not embody the unity of the country, but rather the closing of the ranks of a ruling elite in a country that is deeply divided and heading towards a social explosion.
Dragghi was not being careless when he compared his government to the “governments of the immediate post-war period,” when “political forces that were far apart, if not contradictory” collaborated. At that time, the Communist Party, led by Palmiro Togliatti, joined a right-wing bourgeois government to suppress the socialist strivings of the working class and save Italian capitalism.
Dragghi made clear to the assembled senators how deep the crisis facing Italian capitalism is and that they would risk a social uprising if they failed to back his government.
According to the prime minister, there had been 92,522 deaths and 2,725,106 infections since the beginning of the pandemic, although the official figures are undercounts. Under health care workers alone, 120,000 were infected and 259 have died. As a result of the pandemic, the life expectancy for the entire population has fallen between one-and-a-half and two years, while the decline is between four and five years in areas hit especially hard by the virus. There has not been a comparable decline since the Second World War, stated Dragghi.
Dragghi cited figures from Caritas on the social consequences of the crisis, which showed that between May and September last year, the percentage of the “new poor” increased from 31 percent to 45 percent. “Almost every second person who turns to the Caritas is doing so for the first time,” he said. Among the “new poor,” the percentage of families with young children, women, young people, and people of working age is increasing.
Last year, the number of employees fell by 444,000. Mainly women and young people have been impacted so far, but workers with permanent contracts could soon be out of work.
The impact on social inequality is grave and has few historical precedents, Dragghi continued. Without any interventions, the Gini coefficient, which was 34.8 percent in 2019, would have increased by 4 percentage points in the first six months of 2020. The Gini coefficient is a measure of inequality in income distribution. “This increase would have been larger than the cumulative increase during the two last recessions,” he added.
The pandemic has also had severe consequences for schools. Of the 1.7 million students in secondary schools, only 61 percent were able to participate in distance learning during the first week of February.
“This unprecedented emergency situation demands of us a decisive and swift course towards unity and engagement,” concluded…