Nick Squires: Is there salvation without Silvio Berlusconi?
ROCKED by financial ineptitude and political division, Italy is staring a new reality in the face: life without its long-serving prime minister.
Even the showgirls are deserting him now. As Italy buzzed with speculation over whether Silvio Berlusconi is about to throw in the towel after dominating Italian politics for 17 years, one of his most loyal – and glamorous – supporters piled on the pressure by abandoning him. Gabriella Carlucci, a former showgirl and television presenter, declared that she was leaving Mr Berlusconi’s ruling People of Freedom party (PDL) and jumping ship to the UDC, a centrist Catholic party in opposition – the third loyalist to do so in just a few days.
It was a bitter blow for the besieged prime minister. Ms Carlucci, one of dozens of attractive women recruited by the billionaire tycoon to the government’s ranks, had been an admirer of Mr Berlusconi ever since he burst on to the political scene in 1994 with his Forza Italia party. Then, he had promised to shake up Italy’s calcified and discredited political scene and put the country back on track. But after nearly two decades, those promises have been shown to be woefully unfulfilled, with economic reforms failing to materialise and Italy groaning beneath a 1.9 trillion euro debt, 120 per cent of its GDP.