Italians `turned their backs` on Berlusconi

A trouncing in referendums that have wiped out Italy`s plans to return to nuclear power.

Rome: 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 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."

Bureau Report

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