Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s longest serving democratically-elected prime minister in 150 years since unification, has exited the domestic political stage after 17 years of premiership, but the prime minister is far from losing his grip on Italy
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s longest serving democratically-elected prime minister in 150 years since unification, has exited the domestic political stage after 17 years of premiership, but the prime minister is far from losing his grip on Italy.
Rome / NationalTurk – After Berlusconi lost the support of eight members of his Forza Italia political party in the aftermath of a budget vote, the scandal-wracked politician dubbed as ‘The Great Survivor’ began to drown. The nickname is a reference to Berlusconi’s ability to clear himself from numerous allegetions and votes of confidences in the parliament regarding corruption, bribery and defraudation.
Euro debt crisis that keeps sweeping up victims
Berlusconi resigns and his exit comes on the heels of the exit of Greece’s prime minister, George Papandreou. Thus the Euro debt crisis has dragged down its second victimized prime minister.
At a formal meeting with President Georgio Napolitano it was agreed he will resign as soon as the Parliament has passed the tough austerity package demanded by other euro zone members.
What was said between the Italian president and his prime minister, who dislike each other, is not yet known. Until the parliamentary vote when he lost his governing majority, Silvio Berlusconi seemed determined to hang on to power any way he could. Opponents and even some in his own party protested that he, with his maverick statements refusing to accept the seriousness of Italy’s financial plight, was a major part of the country’s credit crisis. Yet the 75-year-old billionaire seemed less concerned about his country’s troubles but more about clinging to the levers of Italian government.
President Napolitano undoubtedly insisted Berlusconi go, but despite the urgings of some opposition politicians that he go now, immediate resignation would cause almost certainly a period of prolonged political chaos as parties squabbled as to the make-up of a new coalition government. It always does in Italy. Which means that the Parliament might fail to pass the necessary new austerity measures.
Thus Silvio Berlusconi has one final chance to impress — this time to claim that he is doing the decent thing by staying on in the premier’s office during difficult political circumstances. He will not, he insists, be putting himself forward as a candidate when elections are held, perhaps next year. This will be probably seen by many in Italy as insincere as so much else in his remarkable political career. They will find it difficult to believe that the great survivor will give up so easily. They will be convinced that he will seek an excuse to go back on his resignation ‘for the good of Italy.’ Berlusconi will also very probably be using his final weeks in presidential office to clean up any evidence that might further implicate him in the charges of bribery, tax evasion and fraud that he currently faces. For good measure, he will also seek to clear away any proof of his tawdry private life. He has bounced back before.
Can Italy Put Berlusconi Behind It ?
Most Italians will now be glad to see the back of a man whose behavior and management has dragged their country’s international reputation through the mud. Yet it has to be said that Italian voters are also the people who need to be blamed for giving this unedifying individual three different terms in office over the longest period since 1861 (Mussolini excepted — and he was not elected). It is true that the political vehicle he created for himself, Forza Italia was always in coalition with smaller right-wing parties, but it is still clear that a significant number of Italians backed him. They hoped he could bring the success he had enjoyed in business to the running of their floundering country. Initially they laughed at his antics. Now they have discovered that the price Italy must pay for having such a shady character as its leader is a serious and damaging loss of international reputation.