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Italy needs to pass the additional austerity measures and structural reforms pledged by Mr. Berlusconi to world leaders at an economic summit last week.

Any delays in the financial reforms or in establishing a new, stable Italian government spook the markets, which already are unnerved since some investors in Greece are going to lose 50 percent of their holdings. Investors fear a so-called “haircut” could also affect those owning Italian bonds if Italy doesn’t get its act together.

“Markets attack weak animals like lions,” said political analyst Franco Pavoncello, president of Rome’s John Cabot University. “Italy is perceived as being extremely weak politically, which is too bad because economically it is not too weak.”

In the meantime, Mr. Berlusconi is not yet out — and there is considerable uncertainty of what kind of government will follow.

While Mr. Berlusconi is not running for office again, he told the La Stampa daily he would remain active as the founder of his political party and would help out in any political campaigns.

Mr. Berlusconi wants new elections soon with his hand-picked successor, former Justice Minister Angelino Alfano, as a candidate. The 75-year-old Mr. Berlusconi tapped Mr. Alfano to head his People of Liberties Party a few months ago. At 41, Mr. Alfano represents a new generation of center-right politicians after 17 years of Berlusconi leadership.

But Mr. D'Alimonte said Mr. Berlusconi still would be pulling the strings.

“He will be the major protagonist of the next election. He will push Mr. Alfano as the candidate, but he will direct the orchestra. Alfano will be the first violin,” Mr. D'Alimonte said.

The rising bond yields underline the quandary European officials find themselves in as they try to come up with an effective backstop for indebted countries, one with enough financial muscle to support the eurozone’s No. 3 economy. European governments decided last month to increase the effective power of their 440-billion-euro ($600 billion) rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, which is considered too small to bail out Italy.

European finance ministers are still working on the complex details of how to increase the fund’s effective lending power to more than 1 trillion euros ($1.36 trillion) by having it partially insure government debt or by attracting outside investors. There are doubts among outside economists about whether either method will work.

The European Central Bank thus remains the only available outside firewall available against Italy’s rising yields. It has been buying government bonds in the secondary market, which drives down borrowing costs for Italy.

But the bank has warned that the program is only temporary. New ECB President Mario Draghi — himself an Italian — said last week it was “pointless” for European governments to expect outside help to drive down interest rates and the only solution was for them to reform their own finances.

Some analysts have speculated the ECB may be deliberately limiting its bond purchases to keep the pressure on Italy’s reluctant government to push ahead with economic reforms

Colleen Barry reported from Milan, Italy. David McHugh contributed from Frankfurt, Germany.