Michael Day: New leadership is required – but finding it won't be easy

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The Independent Online

Even with Silvio Berlusconi heading for the door, nobody is expecting a bright new political or economic dawn for Italy any time soon.

Shares surged immediately on news that Mr Berlusconi was effectively doomed after failing to get an absolute majority in yesterday's budget vote. But the real work begins in the coming weeks and days to ensure Italy's political upheavals are managed in order to avoid financial chaos.

The President Giorgio Napolitano has already been sounding out stop-gap coalition groupings. Failure to quickly create a replacement government would be the doomsday scenario, with at least three months of added uncertainty before a general election. But pundits believe – or hope – this is unlikely.

Some economists believe the markets would prefer a technical, caretaker government, led perhaps by the respected former European Commissioner Mario Monti. He would certainly give priority to the economic reforms demanded by the EU and the markets.

A similar technocrat government under the former Bank of Italy official Lamberto Dini succeeded in passing important reforms in 1995. But it's not a given that a stop-gap administration would get the parliamentary support it needs to pass the reforms. The next best thing, at least for economic stability, might be a makeshift, centre-right grouping. This became more likely when Umberto Bossi, who leads the junior coalition partner of Mr Berlusconi's Northern League, finally called on Mr Berlusconi to "step aside".

The possibility of a centre-left coalition cannot be discounted. But the opposition's propensity for squabbling and a possible aversion to labour reforms – needed to dismantle the system of vested interests – wouldn't bode well for an administration charged with saving the economy – even with IMF monitors breathing down Italy's neck.