Berlusconi leaves office amid jeers

Booing and heckling protesters celebrate as Silvio Berlusconi quits after two decades in power; ex-European commissioner Mario Monti tipped to lead

Rome: Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi resigned on Saturday night after politicians approved a package of tough economic reforms designed to protect the country and the eurozone from financial collapse.

He stepped down to the sound of Handel's Alleluia, as well as jeers, cheers and heckles from thousands of people who packed the streets of Rome. A stoney-faced Berlusconi was driven to a meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano after addressing his cabinet for a final time.

We are free! (Above) Protesters sipped champagne as they celebrate
following Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's resignation.

As Berlusconi's armoured car approached the president's palace, he faced crowds waving banners mocking his time in government and calling for him to face criminal charges. Others sang 'Bye Bye Silvio'.

Protesters uncorked sparkling wine and danced in a conga line, shouting: 'We're free.' There were reports that coins had been thrown at his car.

Several dozen singers and classical musicians -- complete with music stands and chairs -- performed to rejoice in the end of Berlusconi's scandal-marred reign. Following the vote, Berlusconi returned to his office, with witnesses saying he had a 'face like thunder', while a large crowd gathered outside singing the Italian national anthem and holding signs up reading November 12, Liberation Day. He reportedly told friends he felt 'embittered' after seeing and hearing the insults.

Other protesters hold placards reading, 'Today is Liberation day'. Many
hecklers also threw stones at Berlusconi's car outside the presidential
palace. Pics/AFP

Hunt for new PM
Former European Commissioner Mario Monti, dubbed Super Mario, remains the top choice to try to steer the country out of its debt woes as the head of an interim government.

Italian President Napolitano held consultations  with each of Italy's main political parties in back-to-back meetings. By the opening of European markets, Italy may well have charted a new political course.

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