Tuesday was one of the longest days in Silvio Berlusconi’s 17 years in power. He went into it locked in a struggle with rebels in his own party who he tried to force to vote for a vital state finance bill, but when the vote came they ignored his threats and promises of rewards, and abstained.
The opposition also failed to vote, leaving Berlusconi with a 308 votes to none victory, but eight votes short of an absolute majority. He will resign once the financial laws are adopted.
“If you still have any sense of responsability faced with the Italian people, resign right now. We’ll do our job for the Country,” said opposition leader Pierluigi Bersani.
Berlusconi said tonight he would resign once the austerity measures Italy needs to make to satisfy the EU have been passed in parliament, and he will submit the financial package to a vote of confidence by mid-November.
A photographer snapped his debate notes – they read “8 traitors”, followed by the word “resign”, and then the cryptic “one solution”.
It is an ignominious end to a political era that has seen Italy dazzled and repulsed in equal measure by Berlusconi’s larger-than-life personality. At 75 there is surely no way back for him now, and judges up and down the land may be relishing the chance to at last nail him on one of the many corruption cases he has to face, but has avoided while in office.