Rome: Italy entered a period of political transformation today after Silvio Berlusconi`s historic ouster from parliament, with the billionaire tycoon humiliated and assailed by legal woes but now a force in opposition.
Prime Minister Enrico Letta`s ruling coalition will survive the withdrawal of support by Berlusconi`s Forza Italia party, thanks to the defection of some of his former proteges who will stay on in the government.
But while he is a figure of fun around the world, Berlusconi is still a formidable campaigner who can continue as a figurehead leader even if he is banned from running for election for the next six years.
"Silvio Berlusconi`s political story did not end yesterday with his expulsion as senator," Roberto D`Alimonte, one of Italy`s top political experts, wrote in the business daily Il Sole 24 Ore.
"The Cavaliere leaves parliament but not politics, at least not for now. In fact we should not forget that he still has six-seven million loyal voters on his side."
Berlusconi was in turns defiant and humble in a speech to thousands of supporters yesterday just minutes before the Senate declared his expulsion, donning the mantle of victimhood and vowing "a fight for liberty".
He promised to hold another rally next Sunday to celebrate the founding of the first 1,000 "Go Silvio" fan clubs around the country and said he was staying to protect "our right, our assets and our freedom".
Some experts are predicting a populist campaign from Berlusconi, known for his anti-tax, anti-Europe rhetoric, but others say the ejection and Letta`s government could gain as the economy improves.
"His exclusion from parliament puts him in a precarious condition... And if this is not the end, it is clearly the beginning of a decline that could be quick," said Marcello Sorgi, the editor of La Stampa daily.
A bellwether of Berlusconi`s continuing influence could be the European Parliament elections in May 2014.
But the 77-year-old`s bid to stay on could be hampered on the legal front more than at the ballot box.