Bloomberg News

Monti Pressed to Run in Italy Election as Backers Start Party

November 17, 2012

Supporters of Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, whose non-elected government is nearing the end of its stipulated time in office, started a political party to push for a continuation of the premier’s policies at home and abroad.

“Monti can do the job of reconstruction on Italy and Europe better than anyone else,” Ferrari SpA Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said at a rally in Rome yesterday to inaugurate the movement, named Toward the Third Republic. “Admitting it isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s an assumption of responsibility.”

Monti will need a new political vehicle if he chooses to seek a second term, given that his biggest allies in parliament are opposed to a renewed mandate. The 69-year-old premier, who appeals to Italians weary of recurrent government scandals and instability, will have to defend his tax increases and spending cuts if he opts to run. He would also have to convince voters he can end a recession that has only deepened on his watch.

Italy needs “stability as far as the government is concerned,” Francesco Trapani, president of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA’s watch and jewelry division, said Nov. 16 in a Bloomberg Television interview. “If the Monti government could go on for a few years, it would be great news for us.”

Early Election

Elections are due in April, though may be held sooner. President Giorgio Napolitano has said that regional voting should be held on March 10. He said he would consider holding the national ballot the same day, if parliament completes its legislative agenda by passing the budget plan and new voting rules.

Public confidence in Monti as premier rose one percentage point this week to 36 percent, according to a poll released by SWG Institute on Nov. 16. That’s down from 59 percent in March and up from 33 percent in June. Sixty-two percent of respondents in the poll said they opposed a second Monti term, against 22 percent in favor.

“We’re not asking the prime minister to take the leadership of this movement today,” said Montezemolo, whose group includes union leader Raffaele Bonanni and International Cooperation Minister Andrea Riccardi. “That would prejudice his work, and this is something we can’t permit,” Montezemolo said.

Monti has won the support of bankers and business leaders even as disapproval of his budget rigor rose among the general electorate. Public support for the anti-austerity campaign of Beppe Grillo has surged, while Monti’s biggest parliamentary backer, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, disavowed the government’s record as “disastrous.”

Restoring Prestige

Monti defended his record of budget rigor, telling an audience in Milan yesterday that it restored Italy’s prestige abroad. Deficit reduction also helped save the 17-nation euro area from dissolution, Monti said in a statement of policy principles posted to the government’s website.

“Maybe today, without the austerity measures put in place by the government, we wouldn’t have the euro zone,” Monti’s office said in the document, which highlighted achievements of the premier’s first 12 months. Monti declined to specify his plans for after the term ends.

Opinion polls show a fragmented electorate that may make it difficult for any candidate to muster the majority of seats needed to form a government. Monti, a senator for life, has said in recent months that, while he won’t run for election, he would be open to serving again after the vote if asked.

‘Up to Him’

“It will be up to him to decide in what way to continue,” Andrea Olivero, president of the Italian Christian workers association known as Acli and one of the leaders of Toward the Third Republic, said in an interview with Sky TG24.

The movement headed by Montezemolo, who is the former head of business lobby Confindustria, adds weight to initiatives by Pier Ferdinando Casini, the top Christian Democrat lawmaker, and Gianfranco Fini, the speaker of Italy’s lower house of parliament, who also head two separate parties. The two politicians have said they will run on a platform of returning Monti to power.

The SWG poll indicated that Montezemolo’s new party would have 8.5 percent support, while Casini’s UDC party and Fini’s Future and Liberty for Italy bloc would attract a combined 6.9 percent. That compares with 25 percent for the Democratic Party and 14.8 percent for Berlusconi’s PDL.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Frye in Rome at afrye@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net


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