Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was set to resign on Saturday after a parliamentary revolt and a wave of market panic that has shaken the eurozone, leaving behind an uncertain political future.
Berlusconi, who has been in power for 10 of the past 17 years, has said he will step down once a package of economic reform measures that he promised to the European Union is adopted in a parliament session under way on Saturday.
A cabinet meeting at which Berlusconi could announce the resignation is scheduled for 5.00pm GMT, after the vote. The 75-year-old prime minister would then have to formally submit his resignation to Italy’s head of state.
Former EU commissioner Mario Monti, a 68-year-old economist with a formidable reputation but no experience in political office, is seen as the most likely contender to receive the mandate to form a new government.
European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, the former governor of the Bank of Italy who took over in Frankfurt just this month, met with Monti in Rome on Saturday in what was interpreted as an implicit endorsement.
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde added her voice to calls from US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and others for Italy to then form a new government instead of declaring early elections. “I suppose that an appointment will be made within very few days, which again will be a sign of both clarity and political credibility, which is crucial to stabilising the situation,” she said.