Berlusconi Bye Bye?

Is this really the final end of the Berlusconi era, or just another pause for the Cavaliere to catch his breath?

Will he return on a fresh horse as the savior of an ever-crumbling Italy, as he has done repeatedly for the past 20 years? Will my Italian friends finally be able to travel abroad without a miasma of shame, and not be forced to explain to all what a bunga bunga orgy means? Will the numerous foreigners living and working in Italy, legal, clandestine, and semiclandestine, be able to face their children and say: we did the right thing to come here? Will they say: a new day dawns on the peninsula, the specter of crisis, gloom and crime has finally lifted! Work hard for your future!

These are open questions, and frightening questions today in Italy after yesterday's dramatic countdown, and Berlusconi's declaration that he will step down only after passing an emergency law on the Italian economic crisis. United Europe and its presses have closely followed the saga of the decadent emperor. They know that it was global economics and not his domestic scandals that pried the scepter from his hands.

Italians are wondering : whatever next? How badly off is the Italian political culture, which after all is to be blamed for many times that Berlusconi has managed to take and hold power? Where was the legitimate opposition, why were the counter-forces so weak? After the fall of Milosevic in Serbia, the deeply corrupted and dysfunctional state system was hard put to maintain any pretense of a normal government. Can Italy recover, and behave like a major G-7 power again? How is that possible?

Berlusconi was not a genocidal warmonger like Milosevic, but he inflicted years of steady ruination on Italian culture, health, education, research and reputation, not to mention state finance. Whoever comes in power after him will have to either clean cut with the past, or slowly purge the present. Either that, or just accelerate the collapse and scramble for the spoils, as Milosevic did.

What new, fresh faces may emerge from an Italy in moral and financial crisis? Young people without jobs, homes and children, a nation without funds or diplomatic credibility, a health care system without doctors and technology, brilliant students without no prospective but to flee elsewhere for careers, foreigners fighting for their basic human rights, women claiming back their long-fought victories of freedom and dignity.

Berlusconi was refused power by his own majority in the parliament. He loses little by resigning from a state so dysfunctional. Fear is in the air that he will create new elections, pose once again as the last-hope knight on horseback, and win over voters much as he did before. The Dignity people in Italy, together with Se non ora quando women's movement, anticipate a lot of activism and square action.

Berlusconi and the Italian power-structure seem to have an addictive relationship. Even mutual ruin cannot free them from one another. Sometimes I think that professional parties and politicians should be banned, to give anonymous alternative networks some chance to grow from scratch.

Italian stock markets are crumbling. Twitter messengers are raving. The daily press updates their websites by the hour. Italian TV comedians and stars are improvising political buffoonery like commedia dell'arte. Floods and rains are still drenching Italy, and even Pompeii, that victim of an ancient volcano, is a scene of the modern deluge.