Even before the vote on his political future, Silvio Berlusconi ordered his five ministers to quit Italy’s teetering coalition government over the weekend in an attempt to force fresh elections.

With markets already alarmed at the prospect of another self-inflicted political wound – the U.S. government budget shutdown – Italian assets could take a hammering today with investors finally waking up to the potential chaos looming.

Bond yields did climb a little last week but not to the extent that suggests the worst-case scenario is anything like priced in. Italian BTP futures have plunged by well over a full point at the open and the euro is on the skids. Let’s hope everyone still believes in the European Central Bank’s euro zone backstop.

President Giorgio Napolitano – the 88-year-old on whom hopes for political stability again rest – and Prime Minister Enrico Letto are intent on avoiding early elections by forming a new coalition.

It’s possible that moderate members of Berlusconi’s centre-right grouping could be wooable – even the five ministers have issued statements expressing reservations or even outright disagreement with the decision – and there’s the unpredictable, anti-establishment Five Star movement to court as well. But time is tight.