Monti set to stand, but voters not keen

EUROPEAN leaders have praised the outgoing Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, and encouraged him to stand in next years elections. But Italians are less enthusiastic.

EUROPEAN leaders have praised the outgoing Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, and encouraged him to stand in next years elections. But Italians are less enthusiastic.

Mr Monti, who has resigned after 13 months in office, would win at most 20 per cent of the vote in elections expected in February, said Maurizio Pessato, the vice-president of polling company SWG. Sixty-one per cent do not even want him to run, an SWG poll found on December 14.

Monti has managed to get policies pushed through because he was seen as super partes, Mr Pessato said, using the Latin term for above the political fray. If he chooses to run, he has to choose his partes.

Mr Monti took over last year just as Italy risked becoming the next victim of Europes debt crisis under the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. While he has overseen a recovery in Italys bonds and repaired its standing abroad, his austerity policies saddled Italians with higher taxes, rising unemployment and a shrinking economy.

A former European Union commissioner, Mr Monti announced his intention to quit on December 8 after Mr Berlusconis People of Liberty party withdrew support for his cabinet of unelected technocrats.

After resigning, Mr Monti, an economist who has never sought elected office, had to decide whether to stand aside or join the fray. He is to use a news conference, scheduled for Sunday morning in Rome, to announce plans to run at the head of a coalition of centrist parties, the newspaper La Repubblica said.

While Mr Montis role has been praised by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and other Euro-pean leaders such as Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the group of euro-area finance ministers, his policies find less favour at home.

Mr Monti imposed ?20 billion ($26.5 billion) in austerity measures. He increased taxes, cut spending, raised the retirement age and changed the labour laws to make sacking easier.

The policies have left Italy on track to cut its deficit to within the EU target of 3 per cent of output this year. They deepened Italys fourth recession since 2001, pushing the jobless rate to a 13-year high of 11.1 per cent. The euro areas third-biggest economy will contract by 2.1 per cent this year and 0.6 per cent next year, the employer lobby Confindustria forecast this month.

Monti put out the fire but he used the water Italians were drinking, said Giovanni Orsina, of Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome.

Mr Monti is being courted by a group of small parties led by the Catholic politician Pier Ferdinando Casini and the Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.

Mr Berlusconi has pledged to endorse Mr Monti if he heads a coalition with his People of Liberty party and its Northern League ally.

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