Bloomberg News

Monti Support Grows Before Italian Elections, Newspapers Say

December 15, 2012

Support is growing for a coalition of political parties to back Prime Minister Mario Monti in Italian elections due in the coming months, even though he may not run, according to the country’s newspapers.

“Our project is clear and goes beyond the personal choice of Monti,” Pier Ferdinando Casini, head of the Union of Centrists party, told Corriere della Sera in an interview. “We are offering the Italians a program that has as a starting point the work already carried out by his government.”

Monti has refused to say whether he will enter the race for elections that will probably be held in February, even after European Union leaders, including Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, praised his stewardship of a 13-month-old technocratic government. Monti has decided to run, newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano reported today, without citing anyone.

Casini is due to hold a convention with Toward a Third Republic, the new political movement founded by Ferrari SpA Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, to form a coalition to try to lure the premier into the race. That effort may also receive backing from dissident members of Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party, also known as PDL, who are forming a new movement with a pro-Monti slant.

“I think we need to build a federation of lists that work together based on the success of Monti,” Franco Frattini, Berlusconi’s former foreign minister, told newspaper la Repubblica in an interview.

Resignation Offer

Frattini will join a meeting of the pro-Monti group of PDL members tomorrow in Rome.

The split within PDL came after Berlusconi withdrew his support for the Monti government on Dec. 6 by calling on his party to abstain on a key confidence vote in parliament. The move prompted Monti to announce his intention to resign as soon as the budget law is passed this week, marking the beginning of election campaigning.

Berlusconi followed up by publicly blaming German-backed austerity for Italy’s and Europe’s economic woes. Those comments prompted criticism from European leaders, including Germany’s Merkel, and calls for the PDL to be expelled from the European People’s Party, a grouping of conservative parties.

Frattini, who defied Berlusconi in that vote and cast his ballot for Monti, is joining the new movement.

“On Sunday we want to demonstrate that a large majority of the PDL recognizes our adhesion to the European People’s Party, while only a minority think Italy’s problems derive from a conspiracy in Berlin against us,” he told la Repubblica.

Berlusconi’s Challenge

Berlusconi, a three-time premier of Italy, offered on Dec. 12 to drop his bid to seek another term if Monti would enter the race and lead a “coalition of moderates.” The initiative has been rejected by the Northern League, a traditional ally of PDL who Berlusconi insists must be part of the coalition. The party has has been one of Monti’s fiercest critics.

While some European leaders and much of Italy’s business elite are openly supporting the idea of a Monti candidacy, popular support for the parties linked to the premier is limited. The Union of Centrists, Toward a Third Republic and Freedom of Liberty for Italy have combined support of less than 10 percent, according to an ISPO Ricerche poll released on Dec. 12. PDL had backing of 16.3 percent, with the Democratic Party - - a left-of-center pro-union bloc -- polling at more than 30 percent.

Still, Monti remains the most popular politician in Italy with an approval rating of 50 percent, twice the level held by Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani, the poll said.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tim Quinson at tquinson@bloomberg.net


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