Political crisis seen to turn Berlusconi into a powerbroker
Guess who's back? The real winner as Italy's long political crisis comes to an end is none other than Silvio Berlusconi, a scandal-tainted billionaire tycoon and a global figure of fun.
The former prime minister, 76, is not expected to be included in the new cabinet being set up by moderate leftist Enrico Letta, but there is no doubt among political observers that he will be a power behind the throne.
"Berlusconi cannot hide his delight about how this crisis has turned out," said Stefano Folli, a columnist for business daily Il Sole 24 Ore.
Claudio Tito, a commentator for leftist newspaper La Repubblica, said the protracted deadlock had effectively handed Berlusconi "a blank cheque".
Dismissed as a spent force in politics just a few months ago, a newly-invigorated Berlusconi insisted on a coalition government and was able to position himself as a moderate statesman working for the interests of Italy.
The Il Giornale daily, owned by the Berlusconi family, crowed that he was "taking the country on his shoulders ... and provoking universal consensus".
Berlusconi said the only alternative to a coalition would be repeat elections, and opinion polls indicate his party would win any new polls - mainly due to a drop in popularity for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.