Maurizio Viroli: Can Italy Put Berlusconi Behind It?

Maurizio Viroli, a professor of political theory at Princeton and the University of Italian Switzerland, in Lugano, is the author of “The Liberty of Servants: Berlusconi’s Italy.”

The political crisis there is to a large degree the depressing story of a country where a majority of its political class has forgotten that to be a representative in a democratic republic means to serve the common good, not to serve one man. Even as it faces down a mounting economic crisis, Italy has a long way to go before it can be considered a reliably democratic country once again.

In the aftermath of a budget vote on Tuesday that made clear he no longer had a majority behind him, Mr. Berlusconi declared that he would resign as soon as Parliament passed a slate of economic reforms demanded by the European Union. That does not mean, however, that Mr. Berlusconi won’t retain a considerable part of his power and continue to affect Italian political life.

After the unity government under Mario Monti, a former European commissioner, arranges for new elections, Mr. Berlusconi could maneuver behind the scenes to place one of his most loyal servants, Angelino Alfano, the secretary of Mr. Berlusconi’s party and the Dmitri A. Medvedev to his Vladimir V. Putin, as the next prime minister....

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