Italian PM Berlusconi Resigns

Rome, Nov 13 (IANS): Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi handed in his resignation to President Giorgio Napolitano Saturday, Italy's presidential palace said.

Berlusconi, Italy's longest-serving premier since the end of World War II, announced his resignation Tuesday following a vote in which he lost the majority in the House of Deputies.

He had promised to formally step back once the parliament approved a package of urgent austerity measures asked by the European Union (EU) to rebuild the country's credibility in the international markets and ward off a dramatic debt-driven crisis.

The House of Deputies completed its vote Saturday with 380 votes in favor, 26 in opposition and 2 abstentions, after the package had received the approval of the Senate Friday, Xinhua reported.

The resignation of the 75-year-old leader opens the way for Napolitano to start consultations with parties in order to form a new emergency technocrat government.

Should such efforts fail, the Italian president would dissolve the parliament and call snap elections.

Highly-respected economist and former European commissioner Mario Monti was nominated Wednesday by the president as a senator for life, which was widely seen as a clear indication that he would be the most probable choice to replace Berlusconi as the premier of an emergency technocrat government.

The People of Freedom Party, which is led by Berlusconi and holds the most seats in both chambers of parliament, said later Saturday that it would support Monti as new premier, according to news agency Ansa.

Monti had also won supports from Italian major opposition parties, including the Democratic Party, Italy's largest opposition party.

Berlusconi, a successful entrepreneur and one of the richest men in Italy, graduated in Law at University of Milan in 1961, and shortly after began his career in the building construction field.

In 1973 he started the media business, and five years later he formed his first media group Fininvest, which holds today the largest Italian private TV network. He is also the owner of one of the world's leading football clubs, AC Milan.

Berlusconi founded his own political party Forza Italia (Go Italy) in 1994. Later in the same year he won the election and became premier for the first time, and successively served two other terms taking office again in 2001 and 2008.

He has been facing heavy charges, including tax fraud, embezzlement, false accounting, bribing a judge, and paying for sex with an under-age prostitute, but he has always denied any wrongdoing and has never been definitively convicted.

The premier's center-right coalition strongly lost support in 2011, as Italy's debt-driven crisis deepened alarming the EU partners as well as the international community.


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