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For Italians, the champagne is on ice until Berlusconi really leaves

Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi leave Ciampino Airport in Rome in this June 10, 2009 file photograph.

By Claudio Lavanga, NBC News Producer

ROME – “Sic transit gloria mundi” is a Latin phrase that means "Thus passes the glory of the world.”
 
It is the phrase Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi used to describe the death of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, the late Libyan leader who once was a personal friend and political ally.  
 
Ironically, Italians are now using this Latinism on social networks like Twitter and Facebook to wave Berlusconi goodbye a day after he announced he will resign once both houses of parliament approve financial reforms.
 
It is a final epitaph for a prime minister whose government has been dead in the water for months. 
 
Italians woke up on Wednesday morning to the real prospect that, after 17 years, the curtain may finally go down on Berlusconi’s political roadshow. And they had plenty of opinions on his allegedly imminent exit. 


'Champagne is in the fridge'
"It's too late. He waited too long and still he is not gone yet. He is taking his time to figure out how to play one of his tricks, like passing a few more laws to protect him from his legal problems,” said Eleonora Torchia, an unemployed teacher.

“The champagne is in the fridge, but we'll wait for the day he goes for real before we open it,” Torchia added.
 
She, as others, suspected the prime minister, who has broken his promises in the past, is just buying time to pave the way for the future of his party and will go on his own terms.

"I don't believe he will leave. He is too attached to his throne. I'll believe it when I see it,” said
Cristian Maceri, another Roman.

NBC's Claudio Lavangna reports from Italy on reaction to word Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will resign when economic reforms pass.

Tana de Zulueta, a journalist and a former member of the Italian parliament, was also extremely doubtful that Berlusconi was truly motivated to do what was best for the country.

“He is just buying time in the relentless drive to take care of his businesses before he goes. He wants to stuff the reforms with laws that would help his companies and himself and make sure that one of his men becomes prime minister next,” said Zulueta. “The markets have seen this clearly, they don't believe he's going to go anytime soon."

The world markets did tumble in early trading on Wednesday amid fears that Italy’s debt woes could push Europe’s third largest economy to the brink. 
 
Others didn’t waste time to post sarcastic depictions of the prime minister online, such as the poster of “Dimission Impossible,” in which Berlusconi’s face is placed over Tom Cruise’s in a classic Mission Impossible movie pose.
 
Even Berlusconi would find this funny and appropriate, because there is no doubt that his was an action-packed political career, and he has always liked to be seen as some sort of hero that would carry Italy into the next century.  
 
Instead, Italy is quickly heading back to the dark ages of economic instability, and his star power is fading quicker than Arnold Schwarzenegger when it became clear that he was better at fighting indestructible robots than California’s economic downfalls.

Time up
“The show is over,” a receptionist at the Albergo Nazionale Hotel next to the Lower House of Parliament said on Wednesday. And his might be much more than a metaphor.
 
Berlusconi has been without a doubt the ultimate showman of Italian politics. He managed to use his flamboyant personality to convince millions of Italians that he was one of them: A self-made man with no shame to admit a taste for beautiful women, funny jokes and a disregard for the law.  
 
Among the many nicknames he was given, one was “The Great Communicator,” and for a good reason. He managed to turn from a rich businessman into prime minister in a matter of months, by using his private television network and editorial empire to promote his candidacy and his political ideas.
 
Looking back at one of his first political TV ads back in 1994 one can see why Italians were taken by him. He was the image of a polished politician – complete with a reassuring aura created by professional lighting technicians and a white smile that could have been used for a toothpaste advertisement – he looked straight at them, in the comfort of their own houses.

Compared to the boring, dusty image of “same old, same old” politicians, his image at the time was an instant winner. That kept him in power for 17 long years.
 
Berlusconi’s remarkable story is now in the closing credits. But they will last at least a few days if not weeks because just like every other silver screen hero, Berlusconi won’t go down without one last fight.