REPORTING FROM ROME — The Italian Parliament completed approval of austerity measures Saturday as large crowds formed around the government building, chanting in anticipation that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi would soon tender his resignation.
Berlusconi, blamed by many for disgracing the nation with his sexual exploits as the country descended into financial ruin, had promised to step down upon passage of the economic reform package sought by the European Union.
On Saturday evening, the lower house of Parliament overwhelmingly passed the so-called financial stability law, 380-26, a day after the upper chamber took similar action. The law directs the government to sell state-owned assets, cut red tape, liberalize public services and take other actions to reduce Italy’s $2.6-trillion debt and revive economic growth.
Lawmakers said they expected Berlusconi to resign Saturday night. Earlier in the day, the 75-year-old billionaire met with Mario Monti, a former European commissioner who is expected to replace Berlusconi.
Parliament moved swiftly to pass the austerity bill Saturday, in large part to show financial markets and European leaders that Italy was moving to repair its finances and its reputation.
But even if the in-your-face billionaire became a symbol of all that is wrong with Italy, getting rid of him doesn't change structural problems decades in the making that are central to the debt crisis now dragging down the economies of Europe — and the world.
— Don Lee
Photo: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, standing, arrives for a debate on a package of economic reforms in the lower house of the Parliament in Rome on Saturday. Credit: Alessandro Bianchi /Reuters