ROME — Mario Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank who is largely credited with helping to save the euro, accepted a mandate from Italy’s president on Wednesday to try and form a new unity government that would guide the country out of the pandemic and through economic recovery.
“To overcome the pandemic, to complete the vaccine campaign, to offer answers to the daily problems of the citizens, to relaunch the country are the challenges we face,” Mr. Draghi said after meeting with President Sergio Mattarella for more than an hour at the Quirinal Palace.
Italy, he said, faced a “difficult moment.” And he said he had accepted Mr. Mattarella’s appeal because the emergency “requires an answer equal to the seriousness of the situation.”
Until as recently as Tuesday, the idea of Mr. Draghi replacing Giuseppe Conte as prime minister remained a pipe dream for the many Italians frustrated with a governing coalition that seemed paralyzed by ideological schisms and incompetence, especially as the coronavirus pandemic raged and economic devastation set in.
But on Tuesday evening, Mr. Mattarella summoned Mr. Draghi and appealed to “all the political forces in the Parliament” to support a “high profile government” to meet the historic moment.
He made it clear Mr. Conte’s tenure was over and the new players, potentially political leaders proposed by the parties supporting Mr. Draghi or an all-star cast of politically unaffiliated economists, judges and scientists, was ready to take the stage.
Italy’s stock market rallied on Wednesday in response to the news that Mr. Draghi had been lined up to lead the Italian government. He immediately began consultations with party leaders that will continue in the coming days in an effort to form a new Italian government.
“I am confident that from the exchange with the parties and the groups in the Parliament and from the dialogue with the social forces,” Mr. Draghi said on Wednesday, “there will emerge unity and the capacity to give a responsible answer to the president’s appeal.”
Mr. Draghi is himself no political novice. He has served in past Italian governments, was a director of Italy’s treasury and knows well the machinery of government at both the European and Italian level.
His name has been mentioned for years as a potential candidate to replace Mr. Mattarella as Italy’s head of state in 2022. But now Mr. Mattarella himself has called on Mr. Draghi, whom he has publicly praised in the past, and brought him directly into the fray.
“Now everyone of good will must heed the call of President Mattarella and support the government of Mario Draghi,” Matteo Renzi, the wily former prime minister who engineered the collapse of Mr. Conte’s government by pulling his small party’s support in Parliament. “Now is the time for sobriety.”
Party leaders on the right and left quickly expressed support for Mr. Draghi after it became clear that Mr. Mattarella would ask him to form a government.
Among them were leaders who had made great shows of their loyalty to Mr. Conte. Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of the Democratic Party that Mr. Renzi once led, released a statement…