Monti Not Running In Election, But 'Available'

  on December 23 2012 11:00 AM

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said Sunday he is not running with any party in February’s elections, but is available to lead a future government if asked.

Monti said he was ready to lead any coalition committed to continuing his reforms, the BBC reported. But he ruled out heading any ticket himself, saying, “I have no sympathy for ‘personal’ parties.”

President Giorgio Napolitano dissolved Parliament Saturday after Monti's resignation became official Friday. Monti will continue to serve as the interim prime minister until the parliamentary elections, which have been scheduled for Feb. 24-25.

The caretaker prime minister rejected an offer from Silvio Berlusconi to lead a centrist coalition, since the ex-premier had criticized his economic policies and brought down his government by withdrawing his support.

Speaking at a news conference in Rome, Monti urged Italian parties not to destroy what he said was his government's achievement in saving Italy from the euro debt crisis.

"That financial emergency has been overcome," he said, according to the BBC. "Italians can once again hold their heads high as citizens of Europe."

"I'm not siding with anyone - I'd like parties and social forces to side with ideas," he said of the coming election. "To the forces that show convinced and credible adherence to the Monti agenda, I would be ready to give my advice, my encouragement and if necessary leadership.

"I would also be ready to assume one day, if required by circumstances, the responsibilities that would be entrusted to me by the parliament."

Monti rejected suggestions that he was motivated by personal ambition to win political power.

"If I accept, it's to try to change the moral culture of the country. It's obvious it's not for my personal convenience," he said, according to Reuters.

Monti expressed gratitude to Berlusconi for previous backing of his anti-crisis measures, but said now, “I struggle to understand his line of thought.”

“Yesterday, we read that he assessed the work of the government to be a complete disaster. A few days earlier I read flattering things,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

The logic of Berlusconi’s positions “escapes me” and “I couldn’t accept his offer,” Monti said.

Monti, 69, is an economist and former EU commissioner who first served as a minister under Berlusconi’s first government in 1994. His government has been praised by European leaders for its initial reforms – which include highly unpopular austerity measures -- and for calming financial markets, though much of its reform agenda has been watered down or blocked.

Monti has been strongly urged to stand by centrist groups ranging from disaffected former Berlusconi allies to the small UDC party, which is close to the Catholic Church, Reuters reports. But Berlusconi’s conservative People of Freedom Party and the center-left Democratic Party led by Pier Luigi Bersani have both urged him to stay out.

The Democrats currently lead in polls. A centrist group led by Monti probably would come in a distant third or even fourth in the election and one survey published last week showed 61 percent of Italians felt he should not stand, Reuters reports.

 

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