Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has powered his way through political crises with all the subtlety and grace of a battering ram, but in the end, he couldn’t fix Italy’s foundering economy. So, Il Cavaliere (The Knight) is about to lose his occupazione (job).
Berlusconi held out for one more bid to save his position by attempting to push an important budget bill through Parliament, but that plan didn’t work out and proved on Tuesday to be his last stand. Later that day, he planned his resignation, and the markets surged on the news. —KA
“If I must die, I’ll do it in the House,” said a defiant Berlusconi on Tuesday, vowing to meet his “traitors” in Parliament. Hours later, he passed a key budget measure with 308 votes, seven short of a majority, as 321 lawmakers abstained. Berlusconi’s failure to marshal a 316-vote working majority on the budget measure suggested he would fail to pass a confidence vote, leading to calls for his resignation. Italian bond yields surged, and U.S. equity markets plunged deeper into negative territory.
Berlusconi later told President Giorgio Napolitano that he would resign after Parliament passes an austerity package and structural reforms. The Quirinale, the presidential palace, released a statement regarding the late-night meeting between Berlusconi and Napolitano. Il Cavaliere told the head of state he understood the implications of Tuesday’s parliamentary vote, but that he remained worried about passing key reforms that would satisfy the demands of fellow European nations and the EU Commission. Berlusconi would therefore remain in power to oversee the passing of the “Stability Bill,” and then would tender his resignation to President Napolitano. Parliament is expected to vote on the measure next week.