JNN 13 Nov 2011 : 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.
Italian lawmakers have adopted the controversial package of austerity measures ahead of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation.
On Saturday, the Italian lower house of parliament gave its final approval to a package of austerity measures which was Berlusconi’s precondition for resignation, AFP reported.
Berlusconi is expected to announce he is stepping down at a cabinet meeting later on Saturday, and to formally submit his resignation to the Italian head of state.
A candidate who will then attempt to form a new government is to be nominated.
The reforms are intended to drastically cut public spending in a bid to reduce the third eurozone economy’s EUR1.9 trillion debt.