Silvio Berlusconi continued his long goodbye today, promising not to run in Italy’s next elections, and even going so far as to endorse an ally, Angelino Alfano, as his successor. But both the Washington Post and the New York Times compare the prime minister to Houdini, noting that some opponents still fear his pledge to resign is just a ploy to buy time and avoid a no-confidence vote. Berlusconi’s resignation could be weeks away, as Parliament must first approve unpopular austerity measures demanded by the European Union, but last night his opponents said they may call for a quicker installation of a unity government.
Berlusconi, not surprisingly, rejected that idea and backed new elections after his resignation. Alfano, whom Berlusconi has backed before, is the chief of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party; if he prevails, Berlusconi would maintain a great deal of influence. Meanwhile, the prime minister’s resignation pledge did nothing to ease Italy’s financial crisis: Europe’s markets fell for the third consecutive day today. Meanwhile, yields on Italy's 10-year government bonds rose higher than 7%, nearing the level that caused other euro zone countries to seek bailouts. Italy’s economy, the Times notes, “is too big to bail out.”