Still smarting from a stinging defeat in local elections, Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi must now turn his attention to sex charges against him.
But as his trial resumed in Milan over allegations of paying for sex with an underage prostitute, the 74-year-old was absent, in Romania on an official visit.
He may deny any wrongdoing but, amid damning headlines, there is no denying the extent of the battering his centre-right coalition took in the polls.
Not only was Berlusconi’s candidate annihilated in Naples but the prime minister suffered a shattering loss in his northern stronghold of Milan. Some say it is the beginning of the end of the Berlusconi era.
Centre-left challenger Giuliano Pisapia took Milan with some 55 per cent of the vote, after 18 years of centre-right domination.
The election was seen as a referendum on Berlusconi’s leadership. The main opposition has now urged him to resign.