Italian politics has never been simple. The country is in the grip of political chaos again after Prime Minister Mario Monti announced he is resigning after the current budget gets Parliament’s approval.
His decision was “irrevocable”, said Italy’s technocrat Prime Minister largely credited with getting the country back on its feet. On Saturday Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right People for Freedom party (PDL) announced it would no longer support Mr. Monti after the former Prime Minister and Italy’s richest man announced he would run for Prime Minister again in elections scheduled for March 2013. Mr. Monti’s decision to resign could advance the electoral date by a few weeks.
In a meeting with Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano, Mr. Monti said it was no longer possible for him to continue with his mandate. “Mr. Monti has decided to resign,” a presidential communiqué said.
But before he takes his “irrevocable” step, Mr. Monti, a former European Commissioner, who has put Italy on the path of unprecedented rigour, said he would like to verify if political forces that have for the past several months supported his austerity policies would be willing to vote for his budget. Once the vote is through Parliament, he will resign. Mr. Monti has been at the head of a technocratic government ever since Mr. Berlusconi having to make an undignified, backdoor exit from the Presidential palace late last year.
The 76-year-old Mr. Berlusconi, often referred to as “untarnishable”, created a stir when he announced on Saturday: “I am re-entering the political arena and I’m doing so to win.” He said he was “deluged” by demands that he return to power because the country was on the “edge of a precipice, hollowed out by unemployment and massive taxation”. He announced he would be holding talks with his former ally, the xenophobic and anti-immigrant Lega Nord.
Maria-Rosa Cavalli, a schoolteacher from Milan said “Alas, Italians have short memories. Have they forgotten what a disaster Berlusconi was as Prime Minister? With his nubile nymphets and Bunga Bunga parties he made Italy the laughing stock of the world. I hope the people will not vote him back to power. But as the philosopher Norberto Bobbio said, the mother of idiots is always pregnant. So, who knows?”
But a pugnacious Mr. Berlusconi claimed his party had shown tremendous patience, fortitude and responsibility. “We supported the government while trying to soften some of the harshest measures. But as we all know, imposing austerity on a zero growth economy never works. All the figures are worse than they were a year ago,” he said.
Economists disagree. They have given Mr. Monti’s governance several brownie points saying Italy is now out of danger and that the country’s finances have improved “dramatically”. He has restored international credibility to his country and dragged it back from the brink of financial collapse. Other political figures such as centre-left’s Pierluigi Bersani and centrist Pier Ferdinando Casini criticised Mr. Berlusconi’s “lack of solidarity”. The comic turned politician, Beppe Grillo, said: “What? You again? I thought we were never supposed to meet!”