Berlusconi Says He’s Leaving: Is This the End of Italy’s Politics of Burlesque?

Time has just published my story on Berlusconi’s resignation announcement:

There’s a certain poetry to the fact that it was economics and not politics that spelled the beginning of the end for Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The flamboyant politician is Italy’s richest citizen, the founder and owner of one of the world’s largest media company, and — for many Italians — the man responsible for making their largely peripheral economy synonymous with end-of-empire decadence.

And there he sat, Tuesday afternoon, clench-jawed at the result of a vote that exposed the depth of his political weakness. The 308 parliamentarians who voted in favor of the routine budget bill were enough to ensure its passage. But the real significance was in the 322, including many from his own party, who declined their support. By evening, Berlusconi had met with Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano, agreeing to tender his resignation as soon his government passed a series of planned economic reforms, with a vote perhaps scheduled as early as next week.

Read the rest.