November 11th, 2011
05:43 PM GMT
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London (CNN) - In many ways Italy is a tale of two countries.

Living standards in the north are pretty high while chronic unemployment dogs parts of the south. Successive governments have failed to bridge the economic gap despite numerous rounds of devolution. To this day, the north-south divide remains raw in the minds in the minds of many there.

Now Mario Monti has been nominated to succeed Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister, the gulf between Italy’s current and future leaders is likely to be almost as large.

Berlusconi was flamboyant, famed for his charm with a self-professed eye for the ladies. Hardly the kind of traits one would look for first in a G-7 leader but Berlusconi played up his ‘Italian stallion’ credentials because they won him votes at home.

I lived in Italy for five years and remember being mesmerized by what I could only describe as the Berlusconi personality cult. Election after election, Berlusconi’s big personality seemed to catch people’s attention more than his political manifesto.

Mario Monti is likely to be the polar opposite. An eminent economist with a string of degrees, Monti will be cheered by the financial community, beyond Italy’s borders. That’s good news for a place with a $2.6 trillion debt pile to refinance facing an acute crisis of confidence.

Monti however may have a tougher time gelling with the Italian people, who didn’t vote for him. The 68 year-old father of two was, in fact, only sworn in as a senator this month.

Italy needs at all costs to at least make a show of narrowing its deficit pronto. The current budget vote, which cost Berlusconi his majority, aims to balance the country’s books completely in less than two years. However, with growth grinding to a halt, that target won’t be achievable unless something is done fast.

As chance would have it Monti has Berlusconi to thank for the illustrious credentials that make him a shoo-in for the job. Berlusconi appointed him as a European commissioner after coming to power for the first time in 1994.

Yet the fact that Monti stayed on following Berlusconi’s first fall from power proves he can navigate various political factions. While in Brussels, the soft spoken and cool headed eurocrat took on some of the world’s largest companies like Microsoft, slapping the U.S. tech titan with a record fine for abuse of its dominant position.

As a young reporter, I remember chasing Monti around Europe for a comment while he battled to prevent the then French Finance Minister from bailing out an engineering firm called Alstom. That Finance Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, is now President of France and a man who will wield much power over Italy’s economic fate.

As a former EU competition commissioner Monti has spent much of his career fighting state aid. As prime minister, he’ll need to implement reforms at lightning speed or else he’ll be begging for a bailout himself.



soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Warren

    Super Mario knocks his head on a brick to get some gold coin.

    November 11, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  2. POLAND-WARSZAWA- POLICJA BIJE LUDZI - relacja

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHTrAcSHdsU

    November 11, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  3. ferruccio

    Cara Nina dos Santos, hai una fissazione su Berlusconi con le donne, pensa al tuo Presidente Bill Clinton e fai un paragone.
    In quanto a Mario Monti per ora si è assicurato uno stipendio di Senatore a vita di € 16.000 al mese. Forse questi soldi si potevano risparmire per il bene dell'Italia.

    November 11, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  4. Sal

    It's easy to blame Berlusconi now for his incapability to impose structural reforms but the reality says that it's only the parliament representatives' fault. This leads to the conclusion that Mr.B. made a strong barrier to the former communist party still so strong in the lower house of the Italian parliament avoiding to Italy much more serious damages to its own economy. In a democracy a leader's style counts nothing compared to his capability to attract votes and to the capability to stop communism. Mr. Monti can count on the Italian Republic President: easier, much easier.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  5. Mari o Monti?

    Mario Monti will be able to do absolutely nothing. Italy is Italians, its money is their personal belongings. There's no connection between italians and the State, neither political nor economic or fiscal. If the State tries to put its hands in their pockets, they go mad, it's always been like this and it will always be. It's just about tricking the markets into confidence again and stop the contagion, bringing stability. Then the Eurocrat can go back to Brussels and to his Bilderberg meetings, to plot world dominance again, or whatever the hell they do.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  6. Mr. Peace

    Mario Monti is on the payroll of Goldman Sachs, he is also a key member of the Bilderberg group and theTriLateral Commission. Next planed steps for Italy will be the wholesale looting of the Italian economy and bankster privatization resulting in mass unemployment, wage cuts, pension thievery, and public services fire sales.

    November 11, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  7. Mr. Peace

    Full Monti or Monti Python?

    November 11, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  8. Carmine from Zürich

    Miss Dos Santos , your comment , is very poor. I'm wonderingmif you did spend your time in font of Berlusconis TV.
    Berlusconi is like your mass media politic in the US. At the moment we are facing a currency war, and all the rating agency who now are telling which country in Europe is falling is still the same like you belivied in during the finacial crisis startet in the US not somlong ago.
    PS : Do you know to who the rating agency belongs ? Yes you are right , to US investors...

    November 11, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  9. FD

    I'm Italian and I could not agree more with Dos Santos'comments. She described perfectly the situation and also the the two country in one remark is absolutely right. ( But let us not forget that 42 million Italian out of 60 live in the north or the center and just 18million / 60 live in the south. And 10 million which means 1 in 6 Italians live in the lombardy region, whose capital is Milan which is the economic capital of the country
    Carmine from Zurich : while there are sm Berlusconi TVs , four Italian networks have always been (FORTUNATELY) hostile to him , particularly recently, which is to say RAI 3, LA 7, RAI NEWS and SKY TG 24 . As far as the imbalance of channel RAI 1 is concerned which used to be a very authoritative channel till 2 years ago when B took over it, it's going to go back to what it was soon. So, now the only B tvs are the mediaset channels, on which I just watch american movies dubbed in Italian , nothing more, the channels I listed above(including the RAI all news channel and the Italian Sky news channel) have never been subject to B and are actually very good

    November 11, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  10. lolo40

    Dos Santos is a bad reporter....

    November 12, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  11. Paul Littlehammers

    Mrs. Dos Santos,
    In which part of Italy did you spent your five year working period? Your thoughts are so brilliant and funny!!! Your words denote that you never knew the real people of this nation, hard workers, fine brains, culturally exciting. Your opinion on Italy seems to be quite not original. One Man one Nation. It is completely wrong.

    November 12, 2011 at 2:49 am |
  12. FingerPaint

    Mrs. Dos Santos, if you want to be an international reporter, be it in the US or Italy, you might want to learn how to express yourself in the language of choice. This doesn't even make sense:

    "Successive governments have failed to bridge the economic gap despite numerous rounds of devolution. To this day, the north-south divide remains raw in the minds in the minds of many there."

    November 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  13. stefania

    Cinque anni di preconcetti e pregiudizi, Impari ad approfondire, sciocchina.

    November 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  14. luca

    many people in Italy and elsewhere say that we are in the hands of financial markets, or banks, or rating agencies, and that Monti is here only to make their interest against the people, just like in Greece. But if we did not have 2 billions euro debt, we would not have been in the hands of the markets. Where did this money go? Into early and well-paid retirements, into unneeded jobs in the oublic sector, into lack of control, into irresponsibility, into all sort of waste, corruption, tax evasion etc etc. Who is to blame then? Who voted for the parties that allowed all this? (and not, it's not just Mr B unfortunately, although he has a far more guilty than everybody else). We Italians don't want to depends on the banks? Then let's pay our debts! Hopefully Monti will do exactly this.

    November 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  15. siddha

    Politicians are the mirror of the collective conscioussness – meaning the sum of the national tendencies, (likings, dislikings, flaws and virtures, good and bad etc) of the people who comprise the nation; Italy has deserved Berlusconi, and i can assure all non italian readers that he reflects a large portion of the italian character. Yet again, Italy will do well because Italians are always restless, astute, and never idling for too long. Putting in Mario is astute, and he and Draghi will get italy out of this bind, fast.

    November 12, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  16. Renatus

    Forza Monti!
    All our hopes of exiting from the crisis are now in his hands.
    His success will be the success of the Italian.
    If he fails too, then we Italian will fail too. All of us.
    Then... Forza Monti!!!

    November 12, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  17. Kme

    –>" If he does get the top job in Italy, he’ll need to implement reforms at lightning speed or else he’ll be begging for a bailout himself."

    If he does do the reforms, he will be begging for a bailout! The credit card requires payment and no one wants to pay back what they took and they certainly don't want to give thieves even more money.

    November 13, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  18. vari franco

    Vedo che i suoi commenti sono sulla scia di quelli del giornale LA REPUBBLICA.
    Quando avverrà che i giornalisti stranieri pensino con la propria testa?

    November 13, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  19. Gene

    International reporters keep missing the point. A new government resulting from elections would have been far better and this could have happened months ago. The problem is that current Parliament results from elections held with a new system (approved by Berlusconi and some other parties) which is absurd and presents a serious risk of having two Houses with different majorites. Allowing new elections with that same system would be a leap towards instability. It has to be changed pronto (a referendum on this is scheduled in June 2012). Currently tou vote for a party and the party chooses its representatives in Parliament which are then obviously faithful to the Party leaders only who have the power to elect them for a new term and election winners have a majority premium only in the Lower House. This is why Berlusconi survived so long. With this election system, opposition was technically unable to provide an alternative (even winning an election would not have enabled opposition to form a government). To reset the situation in Italy you need to change the election system back to the old one or find a suitable new one.

    November 13, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  20. Italian Stallion

    Cara signora, lei è proprio una sciocchina

    November 13, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  21. Paolo

    I would just underscore that what has been summarized as "Crowds outside presidential palace erupt in cheers after resignation" represent NOT the country, but only the usual group of left-wing people that regularly lose democratic elections.
    We have always to remember that, good or bad, Mr. Berlusconi rule the country only after winning democratic election.
    We have also to take into account that, also this time, thanks to the power of some people not elected, the left-wing few on the parliament has been able to grab the power that democracy don't recognize them.
    Italy is not only the left-wing few that every day do a demonstration against something destroing pubblic properties, but also the great majority that work hard and vote silently and that can't bear now as ever to see again A (I HOPE TEMPORARY) DEMOCRACY SUSPENSION

    November 13, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  22. Andrew67

    per Vari Franco: Vedo che i suoi commenti sono sulla scia di quelli dei giornali del tuo ex-presidente del Consiglio. Quando avverrà che gli illusi berlusconiani pensino con la propria testa?

    November 13, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  23. Andrea

    .."Dear" Nina...
    the voice of fools is always the highest...

    I'm more than sure that Uk, Germany, France and USA leaders are not those clean babies they want to appear..why don't you write an article on the modern "tank" named "Spread" ? Italian democracy has been attacked, illegally using financial weapons controlled by the above 4 gents...

    November 13, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  24. Daniele

    ...Berlusconi is just a bubo, consequence of a systemic disease. Taking him off the scene will be a temporary relief... Meanwhile, thanks to the agents of Goldman Sachs, we will experience another sell off of Italian assets (e.g. ENEL, ENI, Finmeccanica, etc.)... In a short while, mafia, camorra and their connections, plus a large share of Italian population, which all together thrive on illegality and "illegal" laws, will find a new candidate... God saves Italy!

    November 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  25. guest

    Allow me to introduce you to something called a "paragraph". It's a grouping of sentences that deal with a particular thought, usually separated by an indent or line space before the next grouping of sentences.
    This reads more like bullet points, without the bullets. Where did you learn how to write?

    "Italy needs at all costs to at least make a show of narrowing its deficit pronto." In fact, if they want anything to really change (and many Italians do), they will need to do a great deal more than "make a show" as they have done for so long.

    They need to provide ways to tap the intellectual and creative talent of their people to generate new businesses and new ways of doing business–reforming their current business culture entirely. Otherwise, continued brain-drain and continued low employment is in the forecast.

    November 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  26. Keith

    People who think that Italy is a "democracy" are sorely mistaken. As someone pointed out, the public vote for lists, not for specific people. How is it a democracy when the people who create the lists create them for their own political means. Even if you don't like Berlusconi, you're going to be stuck with him when a vote is cast for whatever political party list he is attached to. And THAT is why he remained at the helm so long. Italy needs a system where the people who go to Parliament represent specific regions and their regions interest, not the interests of political platforms or self-absorbed individuals as Berlusconi was. He spent 17 years keeping lawsuits off his back and stacking these electoral lists with his lawyer, his business associates, and others who cared not for helping their country - they were only in its for the high salary and the protections that it afforded them. And the reason the debt problem is so out of control is because Italy spent too much time passing laws granting Berlusconi immunity, stifling information, controling the media, gagging journalists, etc. I think that Italy has found a competent and capable administator in Mario Monti, and he will do a good job and then call new elections. I, too, have spent a lot of time in Italy, and I never met one person who liked Berlusconi or would admit to having voted for him. This article could have been so much better, but it was just a fluff piece. I expect better from CNN.

    I loved watching the celebrations as Berlusconi drove off...yet even today he doesn't seem to understand the animosity. Even now he expects the Italian people to bow to him for his "courageous" act of resigning (as if he had a choice). When so many people detest you, doesn't it make you wonder why - even just a little? One person commented about how it was just a bunch of leftists, but I think the celebrations were more than that.

    November 14, 2011 at 2:45 am |
  27. giorgio

    La Signora Nina vive di luoghi comuni cari ai nemici dell'opposizione ed ha una ossessione in relazione ai flirt del presidente Berlusconi, ma quando scoppiò lo scandalo ben più grave di Clinton cosa faceva? Si strappava i capelli? Eppure lui non si dimise mi sembra di ricordare, giusto?

    November 14, 2011 at 5:16 am |
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  30. Ampofo Kwabena Peter - Accra Ghana

    I think it is time to try someone else, and also involved all stakeholder in Italy for their ideas, opinion. Italians are hardworking people and industrious Berluconi has been on power for far too long and it is time for change.

    November 22, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
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