Now that both chambers of Italy's parliament have approved an austerity package, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is expected to resign, perhaps as early as Saturday evening, thereby ending a wild and tumultuous political career.
But who will succeed him? Here are some of the top possibilities (in alphabetical order).
The 41-year-old Sicilian, who has been rumored to be a favorite of Berlusconi as a successor, is currently secretary general of the People for Freedom (PDL) party, after resigning as justice minister in July (he was the youngest to hold the office in Italian history).
The Telegraph commented: Dismissed by critics as a Berlusconi acolyte who has happily backed the Prime Minister's war against the judiciary and magistrates, he has few loyalists of his own in a party built entirely around its founder.
In 2002, Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that Alfano attended the wedding of the daughter of Croce Napoli, who is reputedly the Mafia boss of Palma di Montechiaro.
Alfano is best known for crafting a controversial law that protected Berlusconi from criminal prosecution (which was later overturned).
Umberto Bossi is the current leader of the right-wing Northern League party, formerly a key ally of Berlusconi's coalition government. He already called for Berlusconi to resign and give the top job to Alfano.
Bossi is 70 years old, and suffered a serious stroke in 2004.
The Northern League adamantly opposes some parts of the proposed austerity bill, including pension reforms.
He could play a crucial role in deciding the shape of the new government, based on whether he is willing to re-form a coalition with the PDL, the Telegraph speculated.
Pier Ferdinando Casini
Casini is the head of the centrist UDC party and has frequently criticized Berlusconi over a range of issues. The 55-year-old is married to Azzurra Caltagirone, daughter of prominent publisher Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone.
Luca Cordero Di Montezemolo
A long-shot, the 64-year-old Di Montezemolo is the chief of the Ferrari luxury automobile company (and former head of Fiat), and he has been one of Berlusconi's most outspoken critics.
He has been identified in the media as a possible future leader of the country but has kept quiet when asked about possible political forays, the Telegraph noted.
Di Montezemo is from an aristocratic family in Piedmont, and he is believed to be worth in excess of $400 million.
A member of Berlusconi's PDL party and under-secretary of the cabinet, the 76-year-old Letta has been regarded as the Prime Minister's right-hand man. He has a background in journalism and TV broadcasting.
He is widely respected but may face opposition from leaders of other parties who have said they will not back a government led by a figure so close to the Berlusconi camp, The Daily Telegraph noted.
A strong favorite, the 68-year-old Monti is a highly respected economist and former European competition commissioner. He is currently the president of Bocconi University in Milan and honorary president of Bruegel, a European economic policy think-tank.
Monti, the Telegraph indicated, has contributed a stream of newspaper articles over the past months criticizing Berlusconi and proposing sweeping reforms of Italy's hidebound economy.
BBC noted that he gained the nickname Super Mario for his aggressive efforts in fighting Germany's powerful regional banks and prohibiting the merger of General Electric and Honeywell.
The fact that he was first appointed to the EU commission under a Berlusconi government, and confirmed in his second [term] under a government of the left, may suggest he has cross-party appeal, BBC added.
He has experience and, Europe-wide, is one of the most highly esteemed Italian personalities, Gianfranco Fini, speaker of the lower chamber of the Italian parliament, once said.
In addition, he is the European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission and a member of the Bilderberg Group.
The current President of Italy, the 86-year-old is a former Communist and widely respected across the political spectrum.
He has made repeated calls for reform in recent months as Italy's debt crisis and political turmoil have deepened, and he has been increasingly open about the possibility of a broad-based government of national unity, the Telegraph commented.
Profumo, 54, is the former chief of Unicredit, the largest bank in Italy.
A long-standing Berlusconi ally and, like Alfano, a Sicilian. Currently the speaker of the senate and formerly Berlusconi's chief whip in the Senate.
Schifani is 61 years old.