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Berlusconi Resigns, Ending Scandal-Plagued Era

  • Henry Ridgwell

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has become the latest victim of the euro debt crisis. He was forced to resign Saturday, after a week that saw him lose his majority in parliament.

A large crowd had already gathered outside Rome’s presidential palace when Mr. Berlusconi’s motorcade arrived.

He was given a hostile reception. The crowd shouted insults - calling him a buffoon and a Mafioso - and demanded his resignation.

They didn’t have long to wait.

Mr Berlusconi’s meeting with President Napolitano lasted just over an hour.

News spread fast across Italy of the Prime Minister’s resignation.

The party began. Champagne corks were popped; people broke into dance; the square became a sea of Italian flags.

One man echoed many in the crowd - saying we are free, we are finally free.

Many others made fun of the allegations that Mr Berlusconi held so-called ‘bunga bunga’ parties with underage girls.

Former European Commissioner Mario Monti looks set to gain the president’s approval as a new technocrat prime minister. His responsibility will be to stabilise the economy so elections can be held, likely early next year.

Local media say Berlusconi had met Monti for a 2-hour lunch and agreed to back him as Italy’s new leader.

Rome buzzed with the news that Mr Berlusconi had just hours left in office.

Resident Sandro Falbo was among the crowd outside parliament. “I’m so happy because if seems as though Italy has lost its moral sense in recent years,” he said. “Italy’s completely divided and we don’t trust each other. I hope people rediscover the sense of society, to trust each other again.”

Italy is under pressure from European partners to name a new leader before markets open on Monday.

Political analyst Claudio Borghi says Mario Monti would have international approval. “He is very prepared, very fit for the role. He knows very well the euro economics because he served two terms as European Commissioner. The thing that people here in Italy won’t like is that he’s not elected," he said.

That may prove key for the future of a Monti-led government as it tries to implement a 60-billion euro austerity package.

In the space of four days, Europe’s debt crisis has forced the leaders of Greece and now Italy from power. Yet many analysts say it’s not certain whether such upheaval will be enough to save the euro currency.

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