Friday, December 21, 2012

Italy's Mario Monti resigns

Mario Monti

The Italian prime minister, Mario Monti, tendered his resignation to the president on Friday after 13 months in office, opening the way for a highly uncertain national election in February.
The former European commissioner, appointed to lead an unelected government to save Italy from financial crisis a year ago, has kept his own political plans a closely guarded secret but he has faced growing pressure to seek a second term.

President Giorgio Napolitano is expected to dissolve parliament in the next few days and has indicated that the most likely date for the election is 24 February.
In an unexpected move, Napolitano said he would hold consultations with political leaders from all the main parties to discuss the next steps. In the meantime, Monti will continue in a caretaker capacity.
European leaders including German chancellor Angela Merkel and European commission president José Manuel Barroso have called for Monti's economic reform agenda to continue, but Italy's two main parties have said he should stay out of the race.
Ordinary Italians are weary of repeated tax hikes and spending cuts and opinion polls offer little evidence that they are ready to give Monti a second term. A survey this week showed 61% saying he should not stand.
Monti, who handed in his resignation during a brief meeting at the presidential palace shortly after parliament approved his government's 2013 budget, will hold a news conference on Sunday at which he is expected clarify his intentions. He has not said clearly whether he intends to run, but he has dropped heavy hints that he will continue to push a reform agenda that has the backing of Italy's business community and its European partners.
Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's return to the political arena has added to the already considerable uncertainty about the centre-right's intentions and increased the likelihood of a messy and potentially bitter election campaign.
The billionaire media tycoon has fluctuated between attacking the government's "Germano-centric" austerity policies and promising to stand aside if Monti agrees to lead the centre-right, but now appears to have settled on an anti-Monti line.