Arrivederci, Romano

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NATO's launchpad for air strikes on Kosovo just got a little shakier: Italy's 55th government in 53 years collapsed Friday, after the country's parliament unexpectedly voted out Prime Minister Romano Prodi. But no matter who replaces Prodi, Italy is unlikely to deviate from its commitments to either NATO or the European Union. It was Prodi's economic austerity program that brought down his government, but his successor will be forced to adopt the same policies to comply with European Monetary Union membership requirements. "The government was brought down by a single member of a 625-seat parliament switching sides, so whatever coalition replaces it will be as vulnerable" says TIME Rome correspondent Greg Burke. "Prodi's demise is a sign that Italy needs further electoral reform to stabilize its political system "

President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro may opt for a technocratic manager from outside of politics to form a caretaker government until the next elections. Italy has seen this all before -- at two and a half years, Prodi's tenure was Italy's second longest in postwar history -- which may explain why Milan's stock exchange climbed despite the government's collapse.