The great survivor in European politics, Mr Berlusconi, may be losing his post soon. In a vote on the budget, the Italian prime minister won only by the virtue of the opposition parties abstaining. He managed to obtain 308 votes in a chamber of 630. It achieved two things, from the oppositions’ point of view: firstly it clearly demonstrated that Mr Berlusconi has lost the confidence of the majority of the deputies, and secondly it did so without endangering the budget.
It is yet uncertain if the government will fall, as Mr Berlusconi may conjure up a majority in a vote of confidence and battle on. It could mean a new election, in which Mr Berlusconi may fancy his chances, or a government of technocrats appointed by the president. Whatever happens, the space for political manoeuvre for Italy will become smaller and smaller as uncertainty and a sense of crisis continue, and the country can end being basically dictated by other states and the markets.
Politics and history are often determined by events – at least many people perceive that events determine the course of politics and history – even though there are more fundamental, long-term, but less visible reasons, and this vote looks like one such incident, in that it will be remembered as a turning point in Italian and European politics and economy. What next for Mr Berlusconi, and what next for Italy? It is very unclear at the moment.