ROME (AFP) – A trouncing in referendums that have wiped out Italy’s plans to return to nuclear power after a shock local election defeat mean Silvio Berlusconi has lost his magic, Italian newspapers said on Tuesday.
“The magic flute is broken. After 20 years, Italians have stopped following Berlusconi’s music,” the leftist La Repubblica daily said, after final results from the referendum vote on Sunday and Monday confirmed a humiliating defeat.
With all the results tallied, the referendum against nuclear power was passed by a resounding 94 percent — the same outcome as the vote to abolish a law aimed at giving the legally-embattled Italian prime minister immunity.
“The prime minister is no longer able to read Italians and to keep the government. This is really the end of a historic cycle,” La Repubblica said.
“Italians have turned their backs on him,” it added.
And it is not just traditional critics of Berlusconi who sense a seachange in Italian politics, the criticism is now also coming from within his own ranks.
“These will be difficult weeks for the coalition which finds itself …in a surprisingly weak position. Berlusconi is living the worst moment of his political career,” said Il Giornale, a daily owned by Berlusconi’s family.
“The centre-right needs to acknowledge this difficult time by reacting in the only way possible: with reforms and a new identity,” it said.
Berlusconi “for the first time appears to have lost his capacity to be in harmony with his voters,” it added.
Centrist daily Corriere della Sera took a much more critical line.
“If the local election result was a slap in the face, this is a knock-out for the centre-right,” the newspaper said in an editorial.
“Democratic electorates are patient and tolerant but sometimes they stand up like giants and shake off the past,” it said.
The result “reveals a loss of harmony with the country which for a great communicator is already a harsh sentence,” it added.
But it cautioned that the opposition had still not united into a meaningful political alternative to Berlusconi: “It’s one thing to win referendums, it’s another thing to win elections to govern a country.”