Monti says will lead centrists in Italian vote

Fri Dec 28, 2012 3:55pm EST
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By James Mackenzie and Steve Scherer

ROME (Reuters) - Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said on Friday he would lead a centrist alliance in an election in February, ending weeks of speculation over his political future and confirming his bid for a second term.

The announcement clears up some of the uncertainty hanging over election and puts Monti in a three-way contest for power with the center-left Democratic Party (PD), which is leading in the polls, and Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party.

The former European Commissioner, appointed at the head of a technocrat government last year to save Italy from financial crisis after Berlusconi stepped down as prime minister, said he was willing to accept "being named as leader of the coalition".

Monti said the alliance would try to go beyond traditional political boundaries and unite a broad coalition of political factions and groups from civil society around a reform agenda aimed at repairing the deep problems in the Italian economy.

"The traditional left-right split has historic and symbolic value" for the country, but "it does not highlight the real alliance that Italy needs - one that focuses on Europe and reforms", Monti said after a meeting with centrist politicians.

Monti, a favorite with international investors, the Catholic church and the business establishment, has been widely credited with restoring Italy's credibility after the scandal-plagued Berlusconi years.

However ordinary Italians have become increasingly tired of the mix of tax hikes and spending cuts he has imposed to repair Italy's battered public finances and an opinion poll suggested that 61 percent did not want him to run in the election.

Monti, whose status as senator for life means he does not have to stand for a seat, said the grouping could win a "significant result" in the election on February 24-25, but there have also been fears it could lead to a less stable parliament.   Continued...

Italy's outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti talks during a news conference in Rome December 28, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile