According to El País, there is no doubt that "the decline of Berlusconism" is now inevitable. In only a few years, Silvio Berlusconi succeeded in “harnessing a profound desire for stability" among Italian voters who had grown weary of decades of political fragmentation, and “dominated the centre-right with support from the Vatican and the business community," but today his power is threatened by "the moral question" raised by the co-founder of the People of Freedom political party (PDL), Gianfranco Fini.

As the Madrid daily explains, Fini and his supporters "have continually taken the government to task for every case of corruption and every instance of ministerial misbehaviour or abuse of power: in short, whenever the executive opts to privilege private interest over the collective good." But Berlusconi "will fight to the end to complete the government’s term in office, which will continue until 2013," remarks El País, which points out that "even if he succeeds in winning this particular battle... the days of Berlusconism are be numbered." The Prime Minister "has failed to establish a political leadership with the capacity to rule the country in a coherent manner. And this is a very serious problem for Italy: much more serious than the poor state of the economy or the scandal of Il Cavaliere’s sexual escapades"

The law of the jungle

"Power collapses" headlines Die Zeit, which reports that the "Berlusconi system" of "scoffing at the Italian state and rewarding his supporters" is now in the process of turning on its master. "Until now," the German weekly points out, "Berlusconi’s success was built on Italians’ antipathy to government, and the promise that he would protect voters from state interference. In Berlusconi’s Italy, the state and its institutions were viewed as the opponents of a charismatic politician intent on protecting his clients. Little by little, Berlusconi, who offered amnesties for tax evaders and unauthorised buildings, was supposed to liberate the Italian people from the grasp of a hostile state. Freed from the constraints of taxation and planning regulations, everyone stood to gain."

But now," continues Die Zeit, "Italians have come to the realisation that this great freedom amounts to nothing more than the law of the jungle. At the end of the day, only a few people have been able to derive any real advantage from the Berlusconi system, most of them long-standing members of a criminal oligarchy with links to the mafia. As it stands, it will be dangerous for Berlusconi to give the impression that he no longer has control over these oligarchs. It is the beginning of a process that could be dreadfully slow and extremely damaging for Italy. Especially since the opposition […] which is weak, will be able to do little more than stand by watch – a situation which has often been the case – the dissolution of the Berlusconi system, at a time when no alternative has appeared on the horizon."

The EU is boring

The crisis in the ruling majority in Rome is unlikely to have any impact on Italy’s position or Italian policy with regard to the European Union. As The Economist points out, in spite of its status a founder member of the EU, Italy has always punched far below its economic and demographic weight in European affairs. Whether it be in the promotion of its national interest or "playing rough," Italy has traditionally been content to play a secondary role. Marked by "continual warfare between and within parties” that undermine any prospect of “a coherent approach” to European policy, it has cultivated “a long history of benign neglect” of European institutions. As a result, “almost uniquely within the EU, Italy has no stable alliances, even with other Mediterranean states,” and even more remarkably until recently, “government departments failed to co-ordinate European policies.”

Over the last few years, the progress made in this regard, which has notably been prompted by greater political stability under successive Silvio Berlusconi governments, has done little to change the country’s fundamental position: "for Italy’s prime minister, the EU is boring." In the field of foreign affairs, "Mr Berlusconi reserves his enthusiasm for his personal diplomatic relations with the leaders of the likes of Turkey, Russia, Belarus, Libya and the Central Asian republics—all countries outside the EU, some of which inspire deep misgivings in Brussels."