Silvio Berlusconi steps down from PM 4 replies

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Commissar MercZ

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#1 9 years ago

As I hinted to in thread regarding Greece, there were talks underway in Italy that would see Berlusconi leave and a caretaker government there being formed. This will come under the direction of Mario Monti, a well-regarded economist in Italy who will head a government formed from other similar 'technocrats' so to speak until elections.

Berlusconi Steps Down, and Italy Pulses With Change By RACHEL DONADIO and ELISABETTA POVOLEDO ROME — Marking the end of a tumultuous week and of an era in Italian politics, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi resigned Saturday evening after Parliament approved austerity measures sought by the European Union.

The lower house passed the measures on Saturday by a vote of 380 to 26, a day after they were approved by the Senate, trying to keep a step ahead of market pressures that sent borrowing rates on Italian bonds skyrocketing last week to levels that have required other euro zone countries to seek bailouts.

The vote, and Mr. Berlusconi’s resignation, come amid the biggest crisis facing the European Union in decades, in which the power of financial markets has upended traditional democratic processes.

Pressured by European leaders struggling to shore up the euro against speculative attacks, Prime Minister George A. Papandreou of Greece resigned last week to make way for a technocrat-led unity government. Mr. Berlusconi followed suit, a rare about-face for a leader known for his perseverance and his refusal to bow to critics.

The end of Mr. Berlusconi’s 17-year hold on Italian politics sets off the country’s most significant political transition in 20 years.

“This is the most dramatic moment of our recent history,” Ferruccio de Bortoli, the editor of the Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, said earlier on national television.

The streets of Rome pulsed with a sense of historic change. Many cheered Mr. Berlusconi’s exit. Outside the Palazzo del Quirinale, the presidential palace, a choir and orchestra performed Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus.

President Giorgio Napolitano, who as head of state will oversee the transition, was expected to begin consultations with party leaders to nominate a prime minister immediately after Mr. Berlusconi’s resignation.

On Saturday, the president appealed to lawmakers to put the country’s interests above their own. “All political forces must act with a sense of responsibility,” Mr. Napolitano said.

The front-runner to guide a new government appears to be Mario Monti, 68, a former European commissioner and a well-respected economist with close ties to European Union officials. On Wednesday, Mr. Napolitano named Mr. Monti a senator for life, an unexpected move seen as a prelude to receiving the mandate to form a government.

In a sign of intense deal-making ahead of a delicate political transition, Mr. Monti met with Mr. Berlusconi and two of his close advisers on Saturday at the prime minister’s office.

Earlier, Mr. Monti met with Mario Draghi, the recently installed president of the European Central Bank, reinforcing the notion that financial and European institutions strongly support the appointment of the respected economist in a moment of economic and political turbulence.

The mandate of the next government will be to push through measures to help reduce Italy’s $2.6 trillion public debt and increase growth to keep the country competitive.

The austerity measures approved by Parliament include selling state assets and increasing the retirement age to 67 from 65 by 2026. They would decrease the power of professional guilds, privatize municipal services and offer tax breaks to companies that hire young workers.

Italy’s political parties were fighting to maintain their positions in a new government and to ensure their futures would not be doomed by passing the unpopular measures demanded of tough economic times.

The main obstacle to Mr. Monti’s government could come from Mr. Berlusconi’s increasingly divided center-right coalition. Many members would rather go to early elections than have a technocrat backed by the European Union foisted on them.

“I don’t believe the markets should decide governments,” the minister of infrastructure and transportation, Altero Matteoli, said Friday in an interview on Sky Tg24.

The clash over Mr. Monti raised concerns across the political spectrum about the growing influence of financial markets in democracies. In Italy and elsewhere, a dysfunctional political class has been “impotent” in the face of market dynamics and their impact on people’s lives, the commentator Luigi La Spina wrote Saturday in the Turin daily newspaper La Stampa.

But the main opposition party and other lawmakers, fearing that elections would lead to an unsustainable period of market turmoil, support a transitional government.

The prospects of a Monti government have revealed the “very eccentric” nature of Italian politics, said Norma Rangeri, editor in chief of the left-wing daily newspaper Il Manifesto. Mr. Monti, she said, is a liberal conservative whose nomination is being blocked by the center-right, while the center-left, which supports him, “should be looking for the opposite of what Monti represents.”

“What is opening is the most uncertain scenario that we can imagine,” she said.

Dozens of television cameras and bystanders gathered in front of Palazzo Chigi, the prime minister’s office, on Saturday, awaiting Mr. Berlusconi’s resignation, and the beginning of whatever comes next.

Fulvia Roscini, 47, a nurse, was there with her 8-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. “We came here because I wanted my kids to see this,” she said, “to see that another country is possible and is already here.”

Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting.

Of course like Greece this meant that a number of austerity measures were agreed upon and various 'reforms' are to be completed to reduce the debt. Not sure how the people'll respond to that in the long run. But it's doubtful Berlusconi'll be able to pull a come back like he did in 2008 after being out of office for two years considering the circumstances of this departure, where the country ended up, and the various unsavory parts of his political career.

Now we'll see the political wrangling in earnest.

Nemmerle Advanced Member

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#2 9 years ago

'[G]overnment, instead of regulating economic life, has become its tool and its servant. The most opposite schools, orthodox economists and extreme socialists, unite to reduce government to the role of more or less passive intermediary among the various social functions.

The former wish to make it simply the guardian of individual contracts, the latter leave it the task of doing the collective bookkeeping [....] But both refuse it any power to subordinate any other social organs to itself. [...] On both sides nations are declared to have the single or sole single task of pursuing industrial prosperity.'

- Emile Durkheim,1897

Do I think this is a good thing? Berlusconi was one of history's greatest political trolls - so I can't say I'm disappointed to see the back of him. But in another sense people are disinterested in what happened last year, or a hundred years ago; and Durkheim's rather shrewd observations do seem born out by the last hundred plus years of activity.

Of course one could argue that industrial prosperity is simply the measure of what people tend to value in a given society - and that's a view I'm fairly sympathetic to.... Perhaps a more abrupt interpretation is that one tends to value the leisure, and not the necessity - that we have more value for a new iphone or what have you than how a meal got on the table.

Really - in terms of debt and production - one is inclined to wonder quite what we need. Quite how this should be a crisis when so few of us are engaged in critical industries in a purely survival sense. As long as you have a roof over your head and some food in your belly and reasonable access to information ---- what more is there to want or gain?

Commissar MercZ

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#3 9 years ago

Yeah, that Durkheim thing is correct I think. It has become a collaborator if not colluding with those interests.

The one thing I believe all Italians probably know by now and its observers to boot is that Berlusconi was a product of the Italian political system- and generally we see this in most political systems, it's not a uniquely 'southern' European phenomenon- and removing him won't solve that issue. It'll still have the possibility for someone like Berlusconi to come back up the woodworks if he wanted to.

Again I'm not sure if Berlusconi can come up the woodworks again but someone like him can. Just like how people thought that something like Craxi couldn't happen again, Berlusconi comes waltzing on in (ironically building a campaign off that kind of anger).

Granyaski Advanced Member

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#4 9 years ago

I'm going to miss the comic humour.

Like the time he forgot Obama's name, the time he said living in the camps after the earthquake would be like family holiday.

Also things like how they recently bugged his phone and he waws caught saying to a woman "I'm only prime minister in the daytime" and other hilarious quotes. Or the time he fell asleep when the world leaders met to discuss how to help out Italy.

To be honest its probably good hes gone now.

Commissar MercZ

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#5 9 years ago

Berlusconi was certainly a... vibrant personality in the media, that's for sure. All the gaffes and other errors he pulled much less all the women-related things. Media will be a lot less fun with out him, like Qaddafi.

Then again though like I said earlier, Italy's bound to create another Berlusconi down the road at some point, for better or for worse. There's plenty of businessmen like him who'll ride on the anger with the government to land into office.