Arrivederci, Berlusconi

Media mogul resigns as Italy's prime minister

Rome– Silvio Berlusconi resigned Saturday as Italy’s prime minister, ending an anomalous 17-year era in Italian politics marked by the billionaire media mogul’s dual role as the country’s leading pol and top showbiz entrepreneur.

A chorus of Handel’s “Halleluia,” performed by a professional ensemble, burst out in front of Rome’s Qurinale president’s palace, as thousands of Italians poured into the center of the Italian capital in a euphoric atmosphere reminiscent of a World Cup soccer victory.

On the other side of town, news that Berlusconi had lost his seat of power prompted protracted cheers during a Bob Dylan concert at Rome’s Palalottomatica.

“Listened to Bob Dylan sing in Rome as Berlusconi finally fell. That felt right,” Twittered Salman Rushdie who was at the concert, part of Dylan and Mark Knopfler’s European tour.

Berlusconi, who lost his support in parliament on November 8 as Italy’s economic crisis spiralled, bringing the country on the brink of bankruptcy, stepped down Saturday, ending his third stint as Italy’s prime minister.

The 75-year-old mogul entered Italian politics in 1994 using his TV channels to publicize his “Let’s Go Italy” force named after a soccer chant. He has been distracted lately by sex scandals connected to “bunga bunga” parties and accusations that he paid for sex with a minor, besides corruption charges connected to his Mediaset TV empire, all of which he denies.

As markets battered Italy Berlusconi’s political popularity had been waning at home as his credbility crumbled abroad. And the current climate has not been helping Mediaset either.

Mediaset shares tumbled on Nov. 8 as it posted a 31% drop in nine-month operating profit to €368.2 million ($507.8 million) the day Berlusconi announced that he would step down.

Berlusconi’s resignation paved the way for Italian president Giorgio Napolitano to appoint former European Commissioner Mario Monti to form a government of non-pol technocrats to push through drastic economic reforms needed to revive Italy’s long stagnant economy.

As for his political future, Berlusconi for the moment remains leader of Italy’s center-right bloc, but said after announcing his resignation that he will not run as premier ever again.

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