On Monday, February 11, 2013, Pope Benedict sent shockwaves throughout the world.  For the first time in seven centuries, the Pope resigned.  Along with the 1.2 billion Catholics, the rest of the world sits and waits for Conclave, where the Cardinals will elect a new Pope.   There is, however, another election looming even closer than Conclave.  This Sunday, the Italians will go to the polls and elect a new Prime Minister. 

There are two contenders this year, incumbent Mario Monti, and the widely polarizing Silvio Berlusconi.  Experts have widely speculated that the somber mood the Pope’s resignation has created in Italy will bode well for Monti, as he has the backing of Pope Benedict XVI.  Monti is an Italian economist who was invited by President Napolitano to become the Prime Minister in the wake of Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation in 2011.  Monti, described as a “practicing Catholic,” is one of the first technocrats to assume the position.  Many think because of the debt issues currently facing the country, the Italians will choose the incumbent on election day. 

The second candidate, Silvio Berlusconi, always seems to be in the spotlight.  The resignation of the Pope, and his subsequent endorsement of Monti, will have some effect, probably negative, on Berlusconi’s election chances.  Amidst his many scandals,  Berlusconi, still appears to be a contender for the position. 

Soon enough the Catholic Church will have its new leader, but even sooner, the Italians will have a Prime Minister, either the same one, or one that resigned just over a year ago.