So Berlusconi failed to get a majority in Parliament, and thus his government is no longer viable. After consultations with President Napolitano, he announced that he would preside over the urgent vote on the financial crisis — the EU has made various demands, and Italy has to act — after which he will resign.
At that point, Napolitano can ask someone else to form a government capable of getting a majority, or call for new elections. Berlusconi’s enemies want to wheel and deal and form a new government. Nobody feels very confident about the outcome of elections. The Left, which has desperately maneuvered for the downfall of Berlusconi for many years, has no popular alternative leader, and those on the right or the center-right are similarly without charisma.
There’s a new generation of amazingly young (I’m talking thirty-year-olds) political figures, but none of them is considered “ready” for the top job, and the older pols shudder at the thought of a generational transition.
So there must be a lot of scrambling in Rome right now.
What is the bottom line on Berlusconi? Well, he certainly had more fun than any prime minister in memory, anywhere. Contrary to the nonsense in the media — notably the British press — he saved press freedom in Italy, first by creating private television, and second by funding some truly independent publications, notably il Foglio, the most lively newspaper in the country. He holds the record for longevity in office since the war. He was a dependable ally for us, a friend of Israel, an outspoken critic of the Islamists, and a ferocious fighter against the country’s often-biased judicial system.
Could be a lot worse — as we’re unfortunately likely to see. For sure, his successor, from whatever party, will be a lot less entertaining. The country is in a mess — nothing new there, of course — and there will be a period of austerity. But then Italians like to say that “things were better when things were worse.”
That’ll be tested soon.