by Alessandra Cardone
Rome, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- Italy faced a new political "drama" on Sunday, a day after the country has been plunged into chaos by the sudden resignations of five centre-right ministers.
President Giorgio Napolitano and Prime Minister Enrico Letta have now to weigh feasible ways out of the crisis, which resulted from a decision quite shocking for the country.
"This event shows that stability is like the Holy Grail in Italy. Everybody wants it but nobody puts it at the top of the agenda as priority," vice editor-in-chief of La Repubblica newspaper Massimo Giannini told Xinhua.
"And among everybody I cannot but include Silvio Berlusconi, who proved once more that, from his point of view, the destiny of Italy coincides with his own legal and justice fate," he added.
Saturday night former prime minister Berlusconi urged all the ministers in his People of Freedom Party (PDL) to step down, a gesture described as "crazy and irresponsible" by Prime Minister Letta. The resignations could effectively bring down the unsteady coalition government.
The decision, which came on the eve of Berlusconi's 77th birthday, took many observers and analysts by surprise, even if threats of this had been made all throughout the summer.
All the main newspapers have commented severely. "The decision of Berlusconi and his ministers is reckless, desperate and unproductive. The price will be paid by the country, the businesses, and the Italian families," said Ferruccio De Bortoli, editor-in-chief of the Corriere della Sera.
The move put the eurozone's third largest economy in a very delicate situation. The International Monetary Fund had already warned that political tensions among the ruling coalition represent a risk to Italy's economy. Among the urgent country's deadlines there is the 2014 budget law, which has to be presented to the Parliament and the European Union (EU) by mid-October.
"This political chaos, if not solved, will reflect on economy," Giannini confirmed. "Italy could be unable to comply with its international commitments. If it doesn't reduce the public deficit under the 3 percent limit of the gross domestic product (GDP), as requested by the EU, Italy will be put under a new infraction procedure by Brussels and under troika surveillance ... a huge humiliation, a loss of sovereignty for one of the Europe's founders."
Most important it would mean implementing under international pressure those reforms that Italy wasn't able to do alone, the analyst told Xinhua, and that would not come without pain.
The country is required to do reforms necessary to tackle longstanding economic problems, such as youth unemployment at 40 percent, a public debt of around 2 trillion euros, a 2-year recession and one of the lowest growths in Europe.
The resignations of Berlusconi's ministers, which sparked the crisis, were formally justified by the centre-right party as a step against the increase of Italy's value-added tax (VAT), a measure the cabinet had promised to cancel but was then unable to avoid (and which would become effective on Oct. 1).
Tensions among the two main coalition's forces, the PDL and the centre-left party, have actually been rising for weeks, after the Italian Supreme Court upheld Berlusconi's definitive conviction for tax fraud.
On Oct. 4 a special Senate Committee is due to decide whether Berlusconi should be expelled from the Upper House because of his conviction and the full Assembly of the Senate has later to vote on the matter.
Conjectures on what will happen next are difficult to make now. After meeting Letta late on Sunday, President Napolitano will have to decide if there is a chance for the government to continue, even with a different majority, or if early election must be called.
Napolitano hinted that he would take this solution as last resort.
"I would call early elections only if there is no alternative," he declared before his meeting with Letta.
Intervening on the phone at a political meeting on Sunday, though, Berlusconi spoke defiantly: "I am not tired of struggling. The only way is to go to new elections as soon as possible. And all the opinion polls show that we will win."
By Italy's constitution and political traditions, in such a delicate situation, the President of Republic becomes the key figure.
"I expect President Napolitano to give a road map after meeting with the premier, to point out what steps are necessary and possible for a solution," analyst Giannini told Xinhua, warning that this could be a dangerous "crisis in the dark".
"Another cabinet with a different majority is not impossible," Giannini added, "but we are going through a very narrow passage, and we risk to ending up with broken bones."