The year 2011 seems likely to be remembered not only as the year
when Silvio Berlusconi’s government fell after three years in office, but
as the year when the Italian Second Republic entered its final phase.
Having been dominated since 1994 by the pro-/anti-Berlusconi cleavage,
Italian politics and its party system at the end of 2011 appeared
to be moving, or at least stumbling, toward a new and uncertain configuration.
The obvious immediate reason for this was the resignation
of the government on 12 November in the face of a financial crisis that
was rendering the country’s debt unsustainable and its party political
leaders ever less internationally credible. Nonetheless, the simple
conclusion that the Berlusconi government was replaced by Mario
Monti’s technocratic executive due to pressure from the markets and
the European Union (EU) is not sufficient to understand either why
this event occurred or what its effects might be.