Silvio's Lucky Charm

NICK CORNISH for TIME

IL CONSIGLIERE: Letta helps his boss navigate Rome's most influential circles

At his year-end press conference last month, Silvio Berlusconi was as ebullient as ever. The Italian Prime Minister predicted that after a "year of transition," 2005 would usher in the country's long-awaited economic turnaround. He was so confident, in fact, that you'd never know he'd just survived a year of crisis. Last June, with the economy sagging, voters gave him a bloody nose in European elections — his Forza Italia party collected just 21% of the vote. Soon after, Marco Follini, the wily Christian Democratic leader, threatened to withdraw his party from Berlusconi's coalition. Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti's forced resignation in...

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