Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi is set to go tonight. There will be much celebrating among progressives and democrats when he does. But, also some very troubling questions.
Why couldn’t the Italian people do it? Why did it take outsiders, that clique of the international banking lobby, bureaucrats in Brussels and heads of state of Germany and France?
To be fair, the answer to that first question is pretty simple. Italians have never really been able to find out the truth about billionaire Berlusconi.
For everything they know about him has been beamed into their living rooms through his TV channels, and splashed across his newspapers.
And many members of Berlusconi’s political party and other political allies were either existing or former employees, or knew they would one way or other be rewarded for being loyal. And this goes for the many who have known him personally, intimately even.
And then there are the many businesses who do who business with the empresario, and his vast corporate interests that also include advertising, construction, finance and sport. Why would they speak out against him?
Which takes us to some other burning questions.
After he steps down as prime minister, what will become of him?
Will Super Mario Monti, the prospective new PM of the government of ‘technocrats’ set to be inaugurated next week, ask the third richest man in Europe to share in a bit of austerity he’s planning for the nation?
Will the former European Competition Commissioner – brought in to brush aside ‘vested interests’ and liberate market forces – liberalise Berlusconi?
Will he break up Berlusconi’s TV monopoly – a monopoly over the minds of millions of Italians?
And will his government introduce a conflict of interest law, that in 18 years no party from the centre-left to the far right carried through when they had the opportunity, so Il Cavaliere, and oligarchs like him can never be allowed to concentrate overwhelming economic, media and political power?
Some were taken aback at the speed of events the past days with Berlusconi displaying an uncharacteristic lack of ego.
In these last hours of Berlusconi’s premiership, splits were being reported within his Freedom People party over Monti’s succession with bids to find a candidate for premier closer to Il Cavaliere. Or perhaps to deliver some other kind of golden handshake?
We’ll surely never know.
What’s for sure, Berlusconi remains dangerously rich and powerful. And unlike measures to cut the debt down to size, there’s no emergency law, drafted in some foreign capital for Italy’s parliament to rubber stamp, to do the same with him.
Italians may see Berlusconi exit tonight as prime minister. But my bet is that he’ll continue to loom large in their lives for some time to come.