Berlusconi Out As Prime Minister of Italy

Silvio Berlusconi resigned as prime minister of Italy on Saturday after 17 years in power. The longest-serving post-war leader of Italy, Berlusconi — like George Papandreou, the former Primer Minister of Greece — has seen his recent years in office overwhelmed by the financial crisis. Italy’s $2.6 trillion debt is now 120 percent of its Gross Domestic Project and during the past 15 years (i.e., during most of Berlusconi’s time in office) the country’s economy has only grown 0.75 each year. On Wednesday, the yield on 10-year-old Italian government bonds surpassed 7 percent, the level at which Greece, Portugal, and Ireland had to seek bailouts from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Italy’s economy, the third largest in the EU, is believed to be too large to bail out.

Crowds Sing “Hallejuhah”

After losing a majority vote on Tuesday, Berlusconi said he would resign after both houses of Italy’s parliament passed austerity measures demanded by the European Union and meant to restore confidence to global markets. On Saturday, a day after the Senate had approved austerity measures, the lower house voted 380-26 with two abstentions to pass the measures, which have now been signed into law. The austerity package aims to provide 58.9 billion euros in savings through spending cuts and tax raises, in order to balance the budget by 2014. Under the austerity package, salaries for public sector workers will be frozen until 2014; measures to fight tax evasion will be strengthened; the retirement age for women will rise from 60 in 2014 to 65 in 2026, the same age as for men; the Value Added Tax will increase from 20 to 21 %.

A 75-year-old billionaire, Berlusconi has been the prime minister three times since he came to power in 1994 and has said that he has been the “best head of government” in Italy’s 150 years as a republic. But sex scandals — including charges of having sex with an under-age girl — and allegations of corruption and fraud in his vast business empire have clouded the last years of his premiership. Berlusconi’s name has also become irreversibly associated with so-called “bunga-bunga” parties which young women were allegedly paid to attend.

His premiership has indeed ended in ignominy. As Berlusconi entered the presidential palace, crowds jeered and yelled “buffoon” and “go, go thief.” Police were hard-pressed to keep the crowd — some singing the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah — from booing him. Berlusconi left by a side-door and said that he felt “embittered” on hearing the hostile crowd.

Greece and Italy: Is Democracy Losing to Financial Markets?

President Giorgio Napolitano is expected to appoint technocrat and well-respected economist Mario Monti, a former European Commissioner, as his successor. However, there is widespread opposition to Monti — considered a choice foisted on Italy by the EU — and a feeling that a change of government is not enough to solve Italy’s economic problems. A team from the EU has now come to Rome to monitor Italy’s implementation of the austerity measures.

Many obstacles face Monti. Berlusconi’s center-right coalition is deeply divided, with many in favor of early elections:

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.

A similar scenario has occurred in Greece, where the new prime minister, Lucas Papademos, is also a technocrat economist and a choice favored by the EU. Indeed, Papandreou was harshly censured by European leaders for calling a last-minute referendum on the austerity measures that the Greek Parliament had to pass in order to receive the next tranche of bailout funds from the IMF, the EU and the European Central bank.

Some have seen Papandreou’s aborted call for a referendum not as foolhardy but a chance to give Greeks a say in the fortunes of their country. But as has happened in Italy, democracy has been made to take a backseat to financial exigencies.



Related Care2 Coverage

Berlusconi Says He’ll Resign After Austerity Measures Approved

Will Italy’s Berlusconi Survive a Confidence Vote?

Euro Crisis: Is the Break-up of the Euro Zone Next?



Photo by MatteoBertini


Claire M.
Claire M6 years ago

I have believed for sometime that many of Italy's problems were about having government connections to crime lords and the smut industry. Keep in mind also that Newscorp also has a powerful media engine in Italy and we all know how much they like to manipulate the minds of the masses. No wonder so much corruption is being discovered there. I hope they can begin to recover and regain some sanity in their government from here on.

Here's to the fall of another king of slime.

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y6 years ago

Probably the smartest thing he's done recently. What does a rich guy need riots for? Severe austerity will take a huge bite out of the bourgeoisie and he's probably thinking 'bienvenuti monsignor Monti, buon apetito.'

Italy isn't less humane than other EU states like Spain, France or Germany (grim histories all) but it certainly is Europe's political circus with hundreds of factions and parties. Oddly or aptly the Fascists, banned post-WWII, changed their spots and splintered into several far-right groups who were in the broad center-right coalition led by Berlusconi. Call it a big circus tent which collapsed on the performers. Like Il Duce, the ringmaster was a womanizing blowhard.

Mandi A.
Amanda A6 years ago

Thanks for the article

R Anna M.
Renata B6 years ago

The fact that the rate of rehoming stray/unwanted pets is the lowest in the Western world and the rate of euthanasia is the highest: what does that say of your nation?
What about the fact that the stampede in Calgary is legal? What does that say of your nation?
The fact that Harper refused to put warnings on the asbestos he sells to Third World countries because if those people knew that they risk of dying of asbestosis they would buy less: what does that say of your nation?
The fact that you have decimated the Native people whose country your ancestors (the undesirable Europeans who preferred to emigrate than to end up in jail for their crimes) have usurped (nothing to do with Columbus: you did it): what does that say of your nation?
What about a Canadian activist of mine who was threatened of death several times because she was standing for the Natives and eventually she disappeared (I supposed they killed her in the end): what does that say of your nation?

Aren’t these indignities much worse than killing a dictator who actively worked for the extermination of the Jews? Harper too should be hang (and I really don’t care which way)

Leslie, do you know how much time of my life I have spent signing petitions against Canadian atrocities? Who gives me my time back?
Leslie: who lives in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

R Anna M.
Renata B6 years ago

Thank you Stella b. Once more I want to stress that I loathe that plastic crook called berlusconi and I have no sympathy for Italy because the majority voted for him. Once I spoke to old friends from university who defended him: I thought they had drunk their brain!
I am sorry that Leslie feels so much for poor Mussolini, good for her. She writes (about how he and his partner were killed): “The nature of the indignity revealed more than just a nation”. Now I ask Leslie a few questions to understand her own nation. Killing millions of defenseless new-born babies, by clubbing them on the head, skinning them alive and leaving them to agonise on the ice in excruciating pain in front of their helpless mothers: what does that say of your nation?
Trying to bully Europe to revoke its ban on such atrocity: what does that say of your nation?
Killing 100 faithful (ill treated: we all know they are ill treated) “working” dogs because they are not needed anymore, without even trying to rehome them, and killing them by shooting them or stabbing them leaving them to die on a pile of other corpses and all this being told that it is PERFECTLY LEGAL in Canada, and the person who did such a job walks free and even apply for compensation: what does that say of your nation?
The fact that the few laws to protect animals are more than 100 years old: what does that say of your nation?
The fact that the rate of rehoming stray/unwanted pets is the lowest in the Western wor

Matilda H.
Past Member 6 years ago

Good... Could they like, I don't know, throw him in JAIL now?

Roger Monk
Past Member 6 years ago

Ding dong the witch is dead.

While prime minister he passed a law that gave him immunity to prosecution while still in office. Incredibly, the Italians let him do it! May he get all the trials that he so richly deserves now, even though his age (and, no doubt, his vast wealth) will probably keep him out of prison.

In a way, we can easily dismiss him as an ego-maniac who has brought ruin and shame to his country (not that he would see it that way, or care a jot). For me, the more important thing is: why did so many Italians keep voting for him for so long? I'm at a loss to understand it. I can only venture a guess that it's the time-worn preference for someone who seems to offer decisive leadership. Doesn't matter if it's right or left, good or bad, be decisive. Look like you know what you're doing and people will follow like sheep. If anyone here has any ideas on this I'd be glad to read them.

Unbelievably horrible man. Good riddence. Throw him in jail and throw away the key.

sherry l.
sherry luciano6 years ago

He was a joke

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton6 years ago

Surprised he lasted as long as he did!

Lynn C.
Lynn C6 years ago

@Todd K. I agree with you comment! This has been a long-term plan and has been very successful. We gave tacit agreement to the whole thing by choosing to exchange the long-term good for short-term satisfactions. Now we must pay the price for our willing ignorance. It won't be cheap.