Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

In a victory for Italy’s national unity government led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the country’s parliament formally approved a € 32 billion budget aimed at promoting growth.

Thursday’s vote comes as the country faces a series of winds, including a rising Covid-19 rate and a turbulent political landscape, with Draghi in battle to replace Sergio Mattarella as president next month, a move that will cause elections that few lawmakers want.

The budget focuses on tax cuts for companies and individuals and confirms tax credits and subsidies aimed at supporting families and businesses introduced by the previous government. It also allocates more than € 3.5 billion to mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, and several billion in tax rebates for companies hiring young people and new mothers, as well as subsidized mortgages for couples buying their first home.

According to budget projections, Italy’s government debt, the eurozone’s second highest after Greece, will fall to 149.4 percent of gross domestic product, from more than 153 percent this year, and the deficit will fall to 5.6 percent from this year. ‘a. 9.4 percent, amidst strong economic growth and ending pandemic-related support for businesses and households.

The tax cuts as well as planned pension reforms have been criticized by unions and led to a general strike this month, while the budget also sparked a heated political debate, as several legislators complained that the government had banned them from debating or amending amendments.

Members of the far-right Brothers of Italy, the main opposition party, said on Thursday they would write to Mattarella to “denounce the fact that lawmakers have been banned from discussing the budget in parliament”. The government has tried to keep discussions and political infighting to a minimum to avoid delays.

The tension surrounding the budget provides a foretaste of potential political conflict over the choice of presidential nominees. The parties in parliament must nominate a replacement for Mattarella in the coming weeks, whose term ends in February.

Draghi upset lawmakers before Christmas when he indicated he was ready to be named president. His potential resignation as prime minister could lead to elections, which could be delayed. structural reforms and investments linked to the EU’s pandemic recovery fund. Many lawmakers will also lose their jobs in the next election after Italians voted in a 2019 referendum to reduce the number of parliamentary seats by more than a third.

Enrico Letta, leader of the center-left Democratic Party, warned on Thursday that if members of the ruling coalition, which includes the far-right League, populist Five Star and liberal Forza Italia as well as small left and centrist parties could not agree. on a cross-party presidential candidate, a government crisis would follow as the idea of ​​a national unity administration evaporated.

“The government is backed by 90 percent of the [members of parliament]. It would be completely contradictory to narrow the camp [for the presidential election], ”Letta said The pressure, the daily newspaper.

The center-right coalition parties and the Brothers of Italy are discussing whether to support Draghi or former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has made it clear he is ready to accept the presidency, but who will not receive the support of Five Star or the PD . Five Star said it would consider a female candidate such as Senate Speaker Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati or Justice Minister Marta Cartabia. Former Prime Minister Giuliano Amato has also been nominated as a candidate.

Meanwhile, many lawmakers will elect Draghi to remain as prime minister until 2023 elections, to complete structural reforms and given the uncertainty facing Italy as the Omicron variant causes a boom in Covid-19.

Lawmakers and ministers will be watching Mattarella’s year-end speech on Friday night for signs that he may reconsider his decision not to serve another term, which will allow Draghi to remain in office.

The government has indicated that it does not expect the new wave of coronavirus infections to lead to widespread restrictions or additional economic stimulus.

But on Wednesday night, it issued an emergency decision that a de facto lockdown for the unvaccinated. Italy on Wednesday recorded nearly 100,000 new Covid cases and 48 deaths.

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