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LA STAMPA

Post-Berlusconi: Italy Has No More Time To Waste

Op-Ed: Silvio Berlusconi tried to avoid the inevitable for far too long, as the Italian (and world) economy suffered the consequences of political stalemate. Now that Berlusconi has announced plans to resign, whatever comes next should come quick - and cl

We might find ourselves wondering how much time has been wasted for nothing. More to the point, we might start adding up how much all this wasted time has cost Italy, in both economic and political terms. At the very least, for the last two months, the situation has put the country in a clearly compromised position. Still, weeks and weeks have gone by waiting for a miracle that was never going to happen. Finally, Italy's government – following those in Spain and Greece - surrendered.

Of course our country has many troubles, and many of them are not recent. Fiscal health and economic growth are among them. Italy suffers - maybe most importantly - of a lack of authority and credibility, which the current government and its premier deepened.

Until the end, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi denied it. He denied it despite several serious warnings from the European Union and from Mario Draghi, the new head of the European Central Bank and former governor of the Bank of Italy. Berlusconi denied it even after the offensive public smirks exchanged by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, when asked about his reliability.

For too long he has hoped to survive thanks to people like Domenico Scilipoti, a Parliament member who left the opposition party in December 2010 in order to support the government in a narrow confidence vote.

Berlusconi had hoped to continue surviving just by pointing out the flaws of the center-left opposition. Only at the very end, did he finally surrender in the face of the rigor of the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano, and some rare clever maneuvering among opposition forces that exposed Berlusconi's lack of a parliamentary majority. Better late than never, we might say.

Nonetheless, Berlusconi has not yet resigned. Even if the President of the Republic considers Tuesday night'scommunication with the Prime Minister a guarantee of his forthcoming resignation, Berlusconi only announced that he will step aside once the austerity measures are approved.

In the history of the Italian Republic, this is not the first "post-dated" resignation. And there is still a considerable risk of the tables turning yet again. In the face of the current critical economic situation, this could be very dangerous indeed. 

After all, Silvio Berlusconi has already said that another government led by some one else is not practicable and that early elections are the only option. On the other hand, many, even members of his own Freedom party, are pushing for a new government supported by a large coalition to face the economic emergency and potentially push through a reform of the current election law.

Sure, both options are legitimate, but after months of confusion, clarity is the most important objective now. 

Is it possible to form a government led by someone with top credentials, both nationally and internationally? Let's have an open debate about it, but let's try to move quickly. And if instead, there is no parliamentary majority to support a transitional government, let's allow the country to elect a new one. Wasting more time is not unacceptable, while the merciless market keeps churning.

Brusselswill not tolerate Italy wasting more time. Above all, the country -- exhausted by economic crisis, arrogance and endless in-fighting – cannot endure more wasted time from politicians of any stripe.

Read the original story in Italian

Photo – Jos van Zetten

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