Senior figures in the 5-Star party, led by Giuseppe Conte, met on Wednesday to decide whether to follow through with their threat to pull out of the coalition. It comes after warnings by Mr Conte last week that he would quit if Mr Draghi failed to enact a series of policy demands, prompting a disappointed prime minister to say: “A government does not work with ultimatums, it loses the point of its existence.”
Italy is due to hold a national election in the first half of 2023, but as tensions rise among members of the coalition that Mr Draghi has led for the past 18 months, the date could be brought forward.
If the 5-Star Movement exits the ruling government — formed of parties from the right, left and the populist 5-Stars — no choice will be left but for Italians to go to the polls.
Speaking at a news conference in Rome, Matteo Salvini, head of the right-wing League, said his party would not continue to back Mr Draghi if 5-Star withdrew from the coalition, adding that early elections were the best solution.
He said: “If a coalition party doesn’t back a government decree that’s it, enough is enough, it seems clear that we should go to elections.”
The centre-left Democratic Party (PD) is also unwilling to form a new government without 5-Star, a party source told the Reuters news agency.
Mr Conte, who was Mr Draghi’s predecessor as premier, took the reins of the 5-Star Movement after his own government collapsed in February last year, but relations between the two have grown more difficult as challenges in the multi-party government have mounted.
Some of the matters causing trouble are the “citizens’ income” poverty-relief scheme, the introduction of a minimum wage and state subsidies for energy-saving home improvements.
Looking to ease tensions, Mr Draghi said on Tuesday that many of the policy priorities of 5-Star overlapped with those of the government, but warned against continuous demands from coalition partners.
He added he will not be willing to carry on as prime minister if 5-Star pulls out.
The earliest Italy could vote would be in the autumn but it would be unusual to hold an election then as it would overlap with the drawing up and parliamentary approval of the budget law for the next year.