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 ...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."