Italy back to square one
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's leading political influence and prime minister for the last 17 years has finally stepped down at the request of the people. He is known as the country's "Great Seducer" and leaves a trail of economic corruption and personal scandal in his wake. Berlusconi is Italy's longest-serving prime minister since the dictator Benito Mussolini himself first held power in 1922, and Berlusconi has related his lack of power over Italy's economy to those of the former dictator's hindered crusade for power during the days of World War II.
National Public Radio's latest update to the Berlusconi uproar, How Berlusconi Created A Country In His Own Image, recalls his many blemishes which directly effected the citizens of Italy. He held alleged ties to the Sicilian Mafia in 1992-1993, was connected to concerns of bribing financial police and former prime minister Bettino Craxi along with corrupting a judge. Each of these charges were overturned in the end due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. And to make sure allegations like this would not affect his future as prime minister Berlusconi made his party pass laws giving government officials limited immunity from prosecution while in office.
It's not surprising Italy is on the brink of economic bankruptcy. James Watson an international relations professor at Rome's American University said: "Berlusconi entered politics to avoid trials and safeguard his empire." Meaning, political power was the only way to protect himself at the expense of the nation.
According to NPR's article, Political Parties Negotiate Italy's Next Leader, the job of re-establishing the sinking economy will be an obstacle for whomever picks up where Berlusconi left off. This bailout would make those of Greece, Ireland and Portugal combined look like pocket change. The italian economy is the third largest in europe, making this a huge global economy issue if the country can't clean up Berlusconi's massacre.
My personal experience with the former prime minister as a study abroad student in Italy during the summer was one of curiosity and contempt. His image among the locals was met with anger, laughter or both. They would make constant "scherzi" (jokes) about his headline of the day, which at the time coincided with his recent sexual payment encounters with a 17-year-old girl.
Berlusconi's actions have allowed NPR to cover the matter extensively with at least seven different blogs and articles making the homepage at some point in the last week. The two-way news blog, Italy's Debt Woes Roil World Markets, provided input from other news outlets as well, giving the story a more rounded background. In the end this economic crisis has become bigger than Berlusconi – he was only the catalyst.