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Monti plans to resign as Berlusconi seeks return to power

ITALIAN Prime Minister Mario Monti told the head of state he has lost support in Parliament and intends to resign, while earlier in the day his predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, announced plans for a return to power.

Monti will try to corral his coalition, which includes Berlusconi’s People of Liberty Party, for a vote to pass the budget before handing in his “irrevocable resignation” and leaving his post, President Giorgio Napolitano’s office said in an e-mailed statement late on Sunday.

Monti, 69, will quit immediately if his allies won’t comply, the premier’s spokesman, Elisabetta Olivi, said in a telephone interview.

“The prime minister doesn’t think continuing his term is possible and has therefore expressed his intention to resign,” Napolitano’s office said in the statement. Monti’s term was originally scheduled to conclude in April.

Monti’s government was thrown into crisis this week by Berlusconi as the billionaire ex-premier prepared his election strategy. His allies in Italy’s Senate and Chamber of Deputies put two Monti confidence votes at risk on December 6 by partially withdrawing their support.

On Saturday, Berlusconi, 76, officially ended a six-week retirement from politics and announced he will run for the premiership to roll back Monti’s budget rigor.

“I am returning to the public sphere due to desperation,” Berlusconi told reporters at the practice facilities of his professional soccer team near Milan, according to a video posted on the web site of Sky TG24.

People of Liberty will back the budget bill, party General Secretary Angelino Alfano told the Ansa news service after Napolitano’s statement. Italy’s Democratic Party, the second-biggest force in Monti’s coalition, wants to pass the budget, RAI 24 news reported on Sunday, citing party head Pier Luigi Bersani.

Monti will resign the day of the budget vote if he is assured it will pass, Olivi said. Elections will take place 45 to 75 days after Napolitano dissolves the parliament.

The showdown pits Monti, the economist and former university president, against Italy’s most successful politician of the past two decades. Monti has been weakened as his tax increases push Italy deeper into recession, while Berlusconi, who first became prime minister in 1994, has been tarnished by criminal trials, including a fraud conviction in October.

Monti defended his record publicly on Saturday before meeting Napolitano and urged voters to reject the politics of the past. Berlusconi had been pushed from power in November 2011 when Napolitano called Monti from academia and asked him to form an emergency administration to cut the deficit and shield Italy from Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.

“When I was installed in power 13 months ago, there was European, American and global interest in the Italian situation because we could have led to the definitive break-up of the euro zone,” Monti said on Saturday in Cannes, where he gave a speech to the World Policy Conference, before returning to Rome to meet Napolitano.

Monti, who previously led Milan’s Bocconi University, succeeded in slashing Italy’s borrowing costs thanks to austerity and his push in Europe for collective crisis fighting. His tax increases and public spending cuts were supported in parliament by People of Liberty in partnership the PD, its traditional rival.

Berlusconi is seeking a comeback after a year in which his party’s approval among the public plummeted. People of Liberty, or PDL, has been hurt by corruption scandals among regional members as well as Berlusconi’s own trials. PDL had 13.8 percent of public support in an SWG Institute poll released this week, compared with 30.3 percent for the PD. 

(Bloomberg News)

In Photo: Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti










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