Until lunchtime Wednesday Italy seemed to be plunging into the year's second round of national general elections. But in a surprising turnabout, Silvio Berlusconi dropped his opposition to a populist government of the Five Star movement and the Lega. The irony is that "what couldn't be done in two months was in a couple of hours."
Sixty days after national general elections in Italy, no government is in sight despite long and tense negotiations among the parties. As the politicians' tempers flare, the long-suffering President Sergio Mattarella is left to seek a way out of the impasse.
On Thursday, the second day of formal consultations in the Quirinal Palace, the risk of new elections continued to cast a shadow over the talks guided by President Sergio Mattarella. And in a changing Italy its youthful new Parliament just may prove unpredictable.
For the old and new pols charged with running Italy, the Ides of March are still approaching, which is to say the day when one or the other is done in. At the moment all the players are still aiming knives at each other, even as deadlines loom.
The shock waves of this election have swept away the entire political system that has managed Italy for the past two decades. Dominated by populist parties, this is now being called the dawn of Italy's Third Republic.
As foreign press crews converge on Italy to report the elections, outsiders seem baffled at the plethora of parties and, instead of ideologies, the people in charge. Here's a listing of just who are these people.
As Italy plunges toward national general elections March 4, the walkup offers plenty of occasions for Italians to see themselves as others see them, with no holds barred. Herewith a sampling of the international press.
Not real candidates: VOTE FOR ME guerrilla posters
This is the last week before polling is prohibited, and in these last days the campaigning for general elections March 4 is both fraught and fragmented, with no fewer than 28 national parties facing off against each other.
As the year winds down, Italy looks ahead nervously to political 2018, when national general elections may take place as early as March. The predicted three-way split is almost certain to make forming a new government a challenge.