Italy PM Monti says he will resign when budget passed

Sun Dec 9, 2012 3:52am EST
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By Steve Scherer

ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti announced on Saturday that he would resign once the 2013 budget is approved, potentially bringing forward an election due early next year and fuelling speculation that he might run.

The surprise announcement came two days after Silvio Berlusconi's party withdrew parliamentary support for the technocrat government and hours after Berlusconi said he would run to become premier for a fifth time on a platform that attacks Monti's stewardship of the economy.

Parliament is already poised to pass the budget by Christmas, and so Monti's resignation probably brings the expected vote forward by no more than a month to February. Elections must follow no more than 70 days after President Giorgio Napolitano dissolves parliament.

Monti's move turns the tables on Berlusconi, who seemed to have once again seized a political opportunity to keep his party in the political game just a year after being forced to resign amid a sex scandal and a debt crisis.

Berlusconi could now be forced into an election earlier than he expected with his badly divided party trailing in opinion polls behind the centre-left and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement of the comic Beppe Grillo.

Monti's announcement will also increase speculation that he could be eyeing a run as a candidate in the election himself although he has yet to make any clear statement.

At a conference in France earlier, Monti, a former European commissioner who is widely credited with restoring Italy's international credibility after the scandal-plagued Berlusconi era, appeared to take aim at Berlusconi, warning against "populism".

He said Italy should not go back to where it was when he took over for Berlusconi a year ago.   Continued...

Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti gestures at the World Policy Conference in Cannes December 8, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard