For the first time in 20 years, a political crisis has been averted not thanks to or in spite of Berlusconi, but in a spirit of absolute indifference to what Il Cavaliere, trapped for days now in a downward spiral that has seen him flip-flop on his position at least a dozen times, could do or could not do.
The fact that at the end a turbulent parliamentary day, the leader of the centre-right, standing almost petrified, announced personally to the Senate, to general surprise, that he would back the vote of confidence – after ordering his ministers on Saturday to pull out of the cabinet and after asking his Senators to vote against the motion only shortly before the vote – has had no impact on the outcome of the complex game of poker that is being played out these days.
The cards had already been laid down, ever since the dissidents in the PDL announced on Tuesday night that they would not be abandoning the government, which left the government with the support of a sufficient number of parliamentarians to assure it a new majority in the Palazzo Madama [the seat of Italy’s Senate].
The man who had been the symbol of the second Republic, the linchpin of all the political transitions during the last 20 years, the leader who had always managed to play a pivotal role not only in his own camp, but in the opposing camp as well, has become superfluous everywhere. Berlusconi did not return to his bench, and it took him a few hours to grasp what had happened. Then, when he had grasped it, he resolved to be useful and to vote for the government, to avoid seeing his party split up. His charismatic leadership, which until Monday had enabled him to avoid any form of internal debate, collapsed very suddenly.
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