By a Newsnet reporter
Italy’s flamboyant Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has resigned his position; in doing so ending a seventeen year political career.
The controversial politician tendered his resignation to President Giorgio Napolitano on Saturday evening after losing his majority in the wake of the debt crisis that has hit the country.
Mr Berlusconi was heckled and jeered by a waiting crowd as he entered the presidential palace to hand in his resignation – he left by a side door to avoid the crowd. Onlookers said the former leader had a “face like thunder” as he entered the building, while protestors held up signs that read ‘November 12 Liberation Day’.
Former European Commissioner Mario Monti is expected to be handed the task of trying to form a new administration to manage the country’s financial crisis.
Italy is facing a debt catastrophe with the country paying bond interest rates approaching seven per cent. This week the Italian parliament voted through a package of austerity measures designed to save the country almost 60 billion euros.
The measures include raising the pension age for women from 60 to 65, a three year public sector pay freeze and increased taxes.
Italy’s problems threaten the whole Eurozone and led to an embarrassing blunder by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s who accidently sent out a message saying it was downgrading France’s ‘triple A’ rating as concerns were raised that French banks, currently holding £261 billion of Italian debt, were dangerously exposed.
The mistake was corrected after an hour and a half, but caused world money markets to fall – an investigation into S&P’s error is to be carried out by the EU.
This was Mr Berlusconi’s third stint as PM. A controversial figure he has been involved in a series of sex scandals and has been tried for fraud. He is currently facing claims that he had sex with an underage girl.
In 2009 he caused outrage by taking a mobile phone-call when arriving at a NATO summit, humiliating German Chancellor Angela Merkel who was waiting to greet him on the red carpet.