Italian pride in a leader's humility

Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a leader who listens and has kept a rare coalition of parties together, faces an upwelling of support after he tried to resign.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi waves to a crowd in Rome as he enters his car, July 15.

Elected leaders face a profusion of mega-pressure points these days – inflation, heat waves, high debt, or the pandemic. Many governments have fallen, as in Bulgaria, Britain, and Israel. Others are faltering, as in Ecuador and the United States with President Joe Biden. In Italy, a country notorious for its rapid turnover of prime ministers, the government of Mario Draghi appears to be on the brink of collapse after 17 months of rare unity. Yet a compelling counterforce could keep him in power.

Last Thursday, the prime minister offered to quit after splits emerged in his cross-party coalition. President Sergio Mattarella wisely refused the resignation. That gave enough time for an upwelling of support for Mr. Draghi and his unusual style of consensus leadership in a nation rife with fractious politics.

Hundreds of mayors signed a petition backing him. Many industrialists and unionists joined the chorus. European leaders also weighed in. Mr. Draghi, a U.S.-trained economist and former head of the European Central Bank, had earned a reputation for saving the euro currency during a crisis a decade ago. In addition, the European Union cannot afford a crisis in the eurozone’s third-largest economy.

Mr. Draghi stands out in Italy because of his humility and tendency to ask questions first. He displays a willingness to listen hard in order to find common ground. Those qualities are especially needed in his drive to pass reforms mandated by the EU to receive pandemic-related subsidies.

Opponents find it difficult to pin down his political views. “My personal destiny matters absolutely not at all,” he said last year. But he is always open and transparent about the range of potential solutions, a quality of leadership that was necessary when he led Europe out of its financial crisis.

His coalition of “national unity” may fall someday or he may decide to simply retire. For now, amid so many crises in world democracies, Mr. Draghi offers a lesson in stability, innovation, and competence. Italy seems to appreciate that for now.

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