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Within a week of the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou's resignation, the Prime Minister of yet another European nation was forced to step down. Italian premier, Silvio Berlusconi resigned on November 12, 2011. The man who had led the country for the past eleven years and dominated Italian politics for over seventeen left in ignominy. The political pressure, the buckling economic crisis, and the public outrage of Berlusconi's final days in office would have been unbelievable even a week before he stepped down.

Eurozone Debt Crisis Factor

The debt crisis of Europe has left most long standing governments and state heads shaken. The financial turmoil faced by the Eurozone in the past year has had far reaching political implications. Berlusconi's regime had come to be seen as one of the primary reasons for the deplorable debt crisis faced by Italy. On Tuesday, November 8, 2011, Berlusconi had committed to resign but only when the parliament which was deeply divided had agreed to pass a bill approving austerity measures as sought by the European Union. The condition was criticized as Berlusconi's attempt to buy time. On Friday, November 11, 2011, the Italian Senate passed the bill and sent it for the approval of the lower house of the Parliament. Surprisingly, the Chamber of Deputies was almost unanimous in passing the bill on November 12, 2011. The unanimity has been said to have been achieved in an attempt to oust Berlusconi and mollify the Italian public and the investors who had been racheting up the borrowing costs all week. The terms of the austerity bill are severe and impose a number of restrictions on public spending. The bill also requires a number of state assets to be sold and labor laws liberalized. The bill is aimed at bringing down the US $2.6 trillion debt deficit of the country.


The Berlusconi Era

Silvio Berlusconi, was the longest serving post-war Prime Minister of Italy. For almost all of the past two decades, Berlusconi dominated Italian politics, serving three terms as the Prime Minister. Having set up the Forza Italia in 1993 and the People of Freedom in 2007, Berlusconi ensured that his sphere of influence extended from politics to media. His first term was in 1994 and he served for about seven months. His second term lasted from 2001 to 2006. Berlusconi was elected the third time in 2008. Nicknamed 'the knight', Berlusconi is a media mogul, a force to be reconciled with in Italian media mogul. With a personal fortune of US $ 9 billion, Berlusconi was the third richest man in the country according to Forbes 2010 reports.

Berlusconi's political career has been punctuated by a number of corruption and bribery allegations. The Italian Prime Minister has also been involved in a number of sex scandals including paying an underage dancer for sex and throwing 'Bunga-Bunga' sex parties as the country was sinking lower in economic depression. The Italians claim that the scandals and improprieties have made Berlusconi the laughing-stock of Europe.

Public Outcry

Berlusconi's move to pass the austerity bill was applauded in the Italian parliament but public sentiments were far from laudatory. Through the day thousands had gathered outside Berlusconi's office and outside various government palazzos in Rome, demanding his resignation. A number of protestors marched through downtown Rome and shouts of 'Get Out' and “Buffoon” soon turned into chants.

Berlusconi's journey to the residence of the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano was lacking in dignity and a far cry from the adulation he had enjoyed for many years. A group of protestors jeered and booed at the Italian Prime Minister. The police struggled to maintain peace and order.

After tending his resignation Berlusconi left the Quirinale through a secondary exit to avoid the crowd. Though Berlusconi left before he could be interviewed, agencies reported that he had felt embittered at the reaction of the protestors. A formal statement was issued from the Quirinale a few minutes after Berlusconi's departure. As word got out that Berlusconi had resigned the crown outside the Quirinale square broke out into songs and dance. A choir started to sing Hendel's “Hallelujah”. Bikes waving the Italian flag started to race through Rome.

With Berlusoni gone, the new government was formed by the former European commissioner, Mario Monti. Monti's success shall depend on successful pulling the country back from the debt crisis and navigating his way through a difficult, often fractured parliament to push through the austerity measures. Italy is now counting on Monti's skills as an economist to pull through the crisis.

 

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