End of an era: Berlusconi set to step down

2011-11-12 20:03

Rome - Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi prepared to resign on Saturday after parliament's lower chamber passed European-demanded reforms, ending a 17-year political era and setting in motion a transition aimed at bringing Italy back from the brink of economic crisis.

Respected former European commissioner Mario Monti remained the top choice to try to steer the country out of its debt woes as the head of a transitional government, but Berlusconi's allies remained split over whether to support him.

Their opposition probably won't scuttle President Giorgio Napolitano's plans to ask Monti to try to form an interim government once Berlusconi resigns, but it will likely make Monti's job more difficult.

Napolitano appealed Saturday for lawmakers to put the good of the country ahead of short-term, local interests - an indirect appeal to members of Berlusconi's party and the allied Northern League to work with the new government.

"All political forces must act with a sense of responsibility," he said.

Berlusconi's resignation was expected after the Chamber of Deputies, with a vote of 380-26 with two abstentions, approved economic reforms which include increasing the retirement age starting in 2026 but do nothing to open up Italy's inflexible labor market.

The Senate on Friday easily passed the measures, paving the way for Berlusconi to leave office as he promised to do after losing his parliamentary majority on Tuesday.

He chaired his final Cabinet meeting on Saturday evening, after which he was expected to head to Napolitano's palazzo to tender his resignation.

Berlusconi stood as lawmakers applauded him in the parliament chamber immediately after the vote. But outside his office, hundreds of curiosity-seekers massed to witness the final hours of his government.

"Finally" read one of the signs held up in the crowd. "Grazie Napolitano", said another - an indication that, like financial markets, many ordinary Italians had come to the conclusion it was time for Berlusconi to go.

Earlier in the day, Berlusconi lunched with Monti in a clear sign the political transition was already under way, news reports said.

While members of his coalition and the eurosceptic Northern League remained opposed to Monti's nomination, some lawmakers suggested they could support a Monti-led government for a few months to enact the additional EU-demanded reforms before elections are held in early 2012.

Regardless, it's an ignoble end for the 75-year-old billionaire media mogul, who came to power for the first time in 1994 using a soccer chant "Let's Go Italy" as the name of his political party and selling Italians on a dream of prosperity with his own personal story of transformation from cruise-ship crooner to Italy's richest man.

While he became Italy's longest-serving post-war premier, Berlusconi's three stints as premier were tainted by corruption trials and accusations that he used his political power to help his business interests.

His last term has been marred by sex scandals, "bunga bunga" parties and criminal charges he paid a 17-year-old girl to have sex — accusations he denies.

Italy is under intense pressure to quickly put in place a new and effective government to replace him, one that can push through even more painful reforms and austerity measures to deal with its staggering debts, which stand at €1.9 trillion ($2.6 trillion), or a huge 120 percent of economic output. Italy has to roll over a little more than €300 billion ($410 billion) of its debts next year alone.

Markets battered Italy this past week amid uncertainty that Berlusconi would really leave and questions over whether Italy's notoriously paralyzed parliament could rally around a replacement.

But Italy's borrowing rates pulled back after Napolitano made clear he intended to tap the politically neutral economist Monti to try to head an interim government to push the reforms through.

The yield on benchmark Italian 10-year bonds fell to 6.48% on Friday, safely below the crisis level of 7% reached earlier this week.

Greece, Ireland and Portugal all required international bailouts after their own borrowing rates passed 7%. The Italian economy would not be so easy to save. It totals $2 trillion, twice as much as the other three countries combined.

An Italian default could tear apart the coalition of 17 countries that use the euro as a common currency and deal a strong blow to the economies of Europe and the United States, both trying to avoid recessions.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said on Saturday that Italy's political transition over the next few days should send a "clear sign of clarification and of credibility" that the country is now on the right path to get its finances back in order.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Lagarde had high praise for Monti, saying she had great esteem for the "quality" economist with whom she had long enjoyed a "extremely warm" and effective relationship.

The IMF has a key role to play over the next few months in overseeing Italy's efforts to pull itself back from a Greek-style economic disaster, monitoring how it implements reforms to rein in debt and spur growth, which is projected at a scant 0.6 percent this year and 0.3 percent next year.

Amid market turmoil last week, Berlusconi was forced to ask for IMF monitoring of Italy's finances, a humiliating prospect for the eurozone's third-largest economy and an embarrassment for the long-defiant Berlusconi.

The premier, however, received a warm send-off from one of his closest pals, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who called Berlusconi "one of the last Mohicans of European politics" who had brought political stability to Italy.

- AP
Read more on:    imf  |  silvio berlusconi  |  christine lagarde  |  vladimir putin  |  giorgio napolitano  |  italy  |  europe debt crisis
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Sport
 

3 sports games you have to watch this weekend

Whether it’s date night or a braai with buddies, plan around these three exciting sporting games!

 
 

Men24.com

How to maintain your mo, bro
Hottie of the day: Colette
Pro-skater Tony Hawk rides a hoverboard!
10 ways to drive her wild!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a strong desire to be unique, self sufficient, right and in control today. Your mind is fast today and you may have the...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.