Saturday, November 12, 2011

Italian prime minister steps down

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Source: Press TV

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has resigned after 17 years of domination in Italy's political scene, as thousands of people gathered in center of the capital to celebrate his departure.

Berlusconi handed his resignation to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Saturday night after Italy's lower house of parliament approved a package of austerity measures demanded by the European Union, Reuters reported.

Former European Commissioner Mario Monti is expected to replace Berlusconi.

Berlusconi, 75, has been under immense pressure to step down over a series of scandals as well as for mishandling the country's economy.

Berlusconi's popularity rating recently slipped to a record low of 22 percent as his government was unable to address the financial crisis that has engulfed the eurozone. He also faced legal battles over bribery, tax fraud and abuse of power.

Italy's debt is 120 percent of its gross domestic product. In August the country passed a 60-billion-euro austerity package to balance the budget by 2013.

There is growing fear among the EU leaders that Italy might be drawn into the crisis that has already claimed Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

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