After years of scandal, Silvio Berlusconi finally bowed out of Italian politics last night as the Italian parliament voted to introduce austerity measures to deal with the country’s severe debt crisis. Berlusconi was forced to leave the presidential residence through a side entrance as protestors chanted “buffoon” and a choir sang the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah to celebrate his departure. The former EU commissioner Mario Monti is expected to be nominated to lead Italy out of financial crisis.
As the 75-year-old, worth £5.6bn, leaves the political stage, it is worth remembering some of his more colourful recent statements:
In July 2011, he seemed to predict his fate in typically bullish terms: “In a few months… I’m leaving this shitty country of which I’m sickened.”
Then on 13 August 2011, as he announced new austerity measures, he appeared aware of the gravity of the situation: “Our hearts are bleeding. This government had bragged that it never put its hands in the pockets of Italians but the world situation changed. We are facing the biggest global challenge.”
But on 4 November, after the G20 summit, he insisted that “the life in Italy is the life of a wealthy country: consumptions haven’t diminished, it’s hard to find seats on planes, our restaurants are full of people.”
Last night, as he drove away from the presidential palace and saw the amassed crowds celebrating his departure, he is reported to have said to his aides: “This is something that deeply saddens me.”
For the New Statesman‘s top ten Berlusconi gaffes, click here.