Italian Premier Mario Draghi waves to lawmakers at the end of his address at the Parliament in Rome, Thursday, July 21, 2022. Premier Mario Draghi’s national unity government headed for collapse Thursday after key coalition allies boycotted a confidence vote, signaling the likelihood of early elections and a renewed period of uncertainty for Italy and Europe at a critical time. (AP Photo)

ROME (AP) — Italian Premier Mario Draghi resigned Thursday after his ruling coalition fell apart, dealing a destabilizing blow to the country and Europe at a time of severe economic uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Draghi tendered his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella during a morning meeting at the Quirinale Palace. Mattarella, who rejected a similar resignation offer from the premier last week, “took note” of the new one and asked Draghi’s government to remain on in a caretaker capacity, the president’s office said. While the president could see if a new parliamentary majority was possible, his office indicated that he would dissolve the body and call early elections.

The turmoil couldn’t have come at a worse time for the eurozone’s third-largest economy. Like many countries, Italy is facing soaring prices for everything from food to household utilities as a result of Moscow’s invasion. On top of that, it is also suffering through a prolonged drought that is threatening crops and struggling to implement its EU-financed pandemic recovery program.

Any instability in Italy could ripple out to the rest of Europe, also facing economic trouble, and deprive the EU of a respected statesman as it seeks to keep up a united front against Russia.RUSSIA-UKRAINE WARAir Force official expects Iran to resume attacks on USSpain, Portugal reject EU plan to cap natural gas useEurope’s central bank backs larger-than-expected rate hikeKey Russia-Europe gas pipeline reopens but outlook unclear

Draghi, who is not a politician but a former central banker, was brought in 17 months ago to navigate the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. But his government of national unity imploded Wednesday after members of his uneasy coalition of right, left and populists rebuffed his appeal to band back together to finish the Italian Parliament’s natural term.

Instead, the center-right Forza Italia and League parties and the populist 5-Star Movement boycotted a confidence vote in the Senate, a clear sign they were done with Draghi.

“Thank you for all the work done together in this period,” Draghi told the lower Chamber of Deputies on Thursday morning before going to see Mattarella. Clearly moved by the applause he received there, he repeated a quip that even central bank chiefs have hearts.

Dubbed “Super Mario” for helping to lead the eurozone out of its debt crisis when he was head of the European Central Bank, Draghi played a similar calming role in Italy in recent months. His very presence helped reassure financial markets about the debt-laden nation’s public finances, and he managed to keep the country on track with economic reforms that the EU made a condition of its 200 billion-euro (-dollar) pandemic recovery package.

He was a staunch supporter of Ukraine and became a leading voice in Europe’s response to Russia’s invasion — one of the issues that contributed to his downfall since the 5-Stars rankled at Italian military help for Ukraine.

Domestic concerns also played a role. The 5-Stars, the biggest vote-getter in the 2018 national election, chafed for months that their priorities of a basic income and minimum salary, among others, were ignored. The final straw? A decision to give Rome’s mayor extraordinary powers to manage the capital’s garbage crisis — powers that had been denied the party’s Virginia Raggi when she was mayor.

While he could not keep his fractious coalition together, Draghi appeared to still have broad support among the Italian public, many of whom have taken to the streets or signed open letters in recent weeks to plead with him to stay on.

Italian newspapers on Thursday were united in their outrage at the surreal outcome, given the difficult moment that Italy and Europe are navigating.

“Shame,” headlined La Stampa on the front page. “Italy Betrayed,” said La Repubblica.

Nicola Nobile, associate director at Oxford Economics, warned Draghi’s departure and the prospect that the country would not have a fully functioning government for months could exacerbate economic turbulence in Italy, which investors worry is carrying too much debt and which was already looking at a marked slowdown for the second half of the year.

Mattarella had tapped Draghi to pull Italy out of the pandemic last year. But last week, the 5-Stars boycotted a confidence vote tied to a bill aimed at helping Italians endure the cost-of-living crisis, prompting Draghi to offer to resign a first time.

Mattarella rejected that offer and asked Draghi to return to Parliament to brief lawmakers on the situation. The premier did so on Wednesday, appealing to party leaders to listen to the calls for unity from ordinary Italians.

“You don’t have to give the answer to me. You have to give it to all Italians,” he told lawmakers.

While the next steps were unclear, Mattarella seemed likely to dissolve Parliament after a period of consultations, paving the way for an election as soon as late September or early October. The current five-year term is due to expire in 2023.

Mattarella planned to meet with the presidents of the upper and lower chambers of Parliament later Thursday, his office said. The announcement cited the article in the Italian Constitution that says the president can dissolve Parliament.

Opinion polls have indicated the center-left Democratic Party and the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, which had remained in the opposition, are neck-and-neck.

Democrat leader Enrico Letta said Parliament had betrayed Italy.

“Let Italians show at the ballot that they are smarter than their representatives,” he tweeted.

The Brothers of Italy has long been allied with the center-right Forza Italia of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi and the League of Matteo Salvini, suggesting that a center-right alliance would likely prevail in any election and could propel Brothers’ leader Giorgia Meloni to become Italy’s first female premier.

Meloni, who has been gunning for an early election since before the crisis erupted, was triumphant.

“The will of the people is expressed in one way: by voting. Let’s give hope and strength back to Italy,” she said.

Some commentators noted that Draghi’s government, which has been among Europe’s strongest supporters of Ukraine, collapsed in large part thanks to political leaders who previously had ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Berlusconi has vacationed with Putin and considered him a friend; Salvini opposed EU sanctions against Russia after its 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula; and then there’s 5-Star leader Giuseppe Conte’s opposition to Italian military aid to Ukraine.

After 5-Star senators boycotted last week’s vote, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio accused Conte of giving Putin a gift.

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India boosts military presence as
border talks with China remain stalled


On volatile border between India and China, a high-altitude military buildup is underway

0003

A close-up of a heliport under construction in Rutog County.

0001

On volatile border between India and China, a high-altitude military buildup is underway

0004

Construction crews are now scattered around Ladakh as Indian authorities speed up their infrastructure race with China.

0005

An overview of a heliport under construction near Aksai Chin Lake, in a region administered by China but contested by India, on May 28.

0002

An overview of a heliport under construction in Rutog County in the Ngari Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, on Nov. 28.

0003 0001 0004 0005 0002

BEIJING’S ISLAND-BUILDING IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA

Runway

Runway

China is expanding the construction of its facilities on Fiery Cross Reef. Provided by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), this June 28, 2015 photo reveals Beijing has nearly completed a 3,000 meter (9,800-foot) airstrip, long enough to accommodate most Chinese military aircraft. Two h...

Expansion

Expansion

Reclamation on Fiery Cross Reef, which lies on the west side of the Spratly Islands, began in August of 2014 and its principal landmass was finished by November. Dredgers have created a land mass that spans the entire existing reef and is approximately 3,000 meters long and 200-300 meters wide.

Facilities

Facilities

This picture taken last November shows construction work being carried out on Fiery Cross Reef. The reef reportedly already houses a helicopter landing pad, a 300-meter-long wharf, a harbor large enough to dock military tankers, barracks and artillery emplacements.

South Johnson Reef

South Johnson Reef

This reef was one of the first facilities to finish principal land reclamation. This recent picture shows that a radar tower is nearing completion at the north end of the land mass. According to AMTI, a new large multi-level military facility has been built in the center of the island. Up to six sur...

A naval base?

A naval base?

Beginning in early 2015, Mischief Reef - also located in the Spratlys - has undergone extensive reclamation activity. Experts say that the recent widening of the southern entrance to the reef, coupled with sightings of Chinese navy vessels, may suggest a future role for the reclaimed reef as a naval...

From reef to island

From reef to island

Significant construction on Gaven Reef began in 2014, with a total of 114,000 square meters of land already created. Satellite pictures show just how fast construction has progressed on the reef. A new artificial island was created between March (left) and August (right) 2014.

Troop garrison

Troop garrison

According to AMTI, China has had a troop garrison on Gaven Reef since 2003, which has included a large supply platform where ships can dock. Experts say a new main square building in the reef appears to be an anti-aircraft tower.

A standardized process

A standardized process

As seen in this image, the basic process of expanding these features involves dredging sand from the seafloor and dumping it onto the reefs. The structure is raised above the high water line, hiding the status of the bank or reef beneath. The sand is then smoothed out and workers surround the island...

'Historic rights'

'Historic rights'

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich waterway, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The US Pacific Fleet commander recently said China was "creating a great wall of sand" in the South China Sea, causing serious concerns about its territorial intentions. Beijin...

Territorial disputes

Territorial disputes

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims, which have led to territorial disputes in the area. Last summer, China's deployment of a massive oil rig in waters also claimed by Hanoi escalated tensions in the region, sparking a standoff at sea and violent anti-C...

US concerns

US concerns

Washington is concerned China's efforts carry a military dimension that could undermine the US' naval and economic power in the Pacific, and has weighed sending warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the new artificial islands. Washington has repeatedly called on Beijing and ...

Ecological impact

Ecological impact

The Philippines filed a formal plea at the UN last year, challenging Beijing's territorial claims. Manila said China's reclamation activities are causing "irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the South China Sea." It also claimed that the destruction of co...

Runway Expansion Facilities South Johnson Reef A naval base? From reef to island Troop garrison A standardized process 'Historic rights' Territorial disputes US concerns Ecological impact

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