Italy dissolves parliament, Monti mulls future
By Gavin Jones and James Mackenzie
ROME (Reuters) - Italy's head of state dissolved parliament on Saturday and opened the way to a February election, with doubts growing over whether outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti will participate in what promises to be a bitter campaign.
Monti resigned on Friday a couple of months ahead of the end of his term of office, after his technocrat government lost the support of Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party.
For weeks, speculation has swirled over what role Monti will play in the election, which cabinet confirmed would be held over two days on February 24-25.
The former European commissioner, appointed to lead an unelected government to save Italy from financial crisis a year ago, has faced growing pressure to seek a second term and earlier this week Italian media widely reported he would do so.
That now seems far less certain, as Monti has had to digest opinion polls that suggest a centrist group headed by him would probably come a distant third or even fourth in the election, expected to be won by the centre-left Democratic party (PD), led by Pier Luigi Bersani.
"The outcome of the election may well not be all that favorable and the question is where that would leave his own credibility and also his reform agenda," a person close to Monti told Reuters.
Italy's main newspapers reported on Saturday that he was inclined not to run, partly because of disappointing opinion polls and partly because of doubts about the quality of the centrist parties that would be using his name.
Another source familiar with the discussions that have been going on between Monti and these centrist groups said he was no longer in direct contact with his potential allies and was now thinking things through on his own. Continued...