ROME — Trying to resolve a month of mid-pandemic political chaos, Italy's president on Tuesday night abruptly turned away from the parties who were squabbling over a new majority and said it was time to try something completely different.

In a surprise move, President Sergio Mattarella summoned one of Italy’s highest-profile figures, former European Central Bank head Mario Draghi, to a Wednesday meeting, making him the front-runner to become the country’s next prime minister.

“We need to immediately give life to a new government that can tackle the great emergencies,” Mattarella said.

Nothing has been finalized, and Draghi has not yet been given the official mandate to form a new government. But his summoning marked a clear U-turn in the country’s political crisis, with the hope that he can do what Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte could not: hold warring factions together and guide a historically steep climb out of recession.

Draghi, an economist trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led Europe’s central bank during one of the continent’s most turbulent periods, amid Greece’s sovereign debt crisis. He has long lurked in the background of Italian politics, his name regularly floated — from both the left and right — as a long-shot, prestige choice to lead a government. But he had never seemed interested in the job.

One Italian official with insight into the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Draghi was the choice best-suited to manage the next phase of the pandemic, when Italy will tap a massive flow of European recovery funding.

“The idea to is to get in somebody competent to draw up the government and get the recovery on the right track,” said Federico Santi, a senior Europe analyst at the Eurasia Group. “It is rightly seen as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — to lay the groundwork for economic recovery.”

“I was quite skeptical,” Santi said. “I didn’t think Draghi would want any part of this. But he’s kind of the most qualified official around.”

It remains unclear what kind of backing Draghi would get in Parliament. Far-right parties, which would be favorites to win power in a vote, have said for weeks that they want elections. The party that holds the most seats, the nominally populist Five Star Movement, is perpetually divided over how comfortable it is in backing the establishment.

But Mattarella made clear he does not want a return to the polls. His address to the nation Tuesday night was largely an argument against elections. He said that a “long electoral campaign” would coincide with a crucial period in the pandemic, a point when Italy needs the government to be fully functioning.

“In the next few months, either you defeat the virus or risk being run over by it,” Mattarella said.

He also alluded to the fact that even elections in Italy don’t necessarily yield clear mandates. It took months after a vote in 2018 for a workable coalition to emerge.

“All of these worries are quite clear to our fellow citizens, who demand quick responses to their daily problems,” Mattarella said.

The scramble to form Italy’s latest government was triggered in January, when former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his small party’s support from the government in a row that was part policy, part personal rivalry. In recent days, Renzi and former coalition partners had been negotiating over whether they could stitch a majority back together, presumably led by Conte, the prime minister since 2018. But four days of talks stalled. And Mattarella was immediately ready for Plan B.