ROME (Reuters) - Mario Monti, bidding for a second term as Italy’s prime minister, said on Thursday that excluding “extreme” elements from mainstream politics would make it easier to push ahead with economic reforms.
The former European commissioner said last week he would lead a centrist bloc in parliamentary elections in February, shedding his neutral stance and criticizing factions he felt had hindered his government’s progress over the past 13 months.
“I believe that cutting out the extreme wings would be a good thing,” Monti told the Uno Mattina program on state television.
“It will be very important to be able to gather up reformists on the left and right who are available to contribute to the reform effort,” he said.
Monti was appointed in November 2011 to lead an unelected right-left government of experts to save Italy from financial crisis after then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi quit. The 69-year-old is in a three-way race with the Democratic Party (PD) on the left and Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PDL) on the right.
A poll published on Wednesday said Monti’s grouping would win 12 percent of the vote. One published last week said it could gain up to 16 percent, depriving rivals of a clear win, but not enough to govern.
The PD and its coalition ally, the Left, Ecology, Freedom party, are on track to win the elections, at least in the lower house.
Monti has blamed the left-wing CGIL trade union and a minority of PD supporters for blocking more radical labor reforms he had wanted to introduce. He also said pressure from the pharmacy sector and its backers on the right had watered down plans to deregulate that market.
Monti said on Thursday that the next government should aim to reduce taxes gradually alongside public spending controls, and continue to fight tax evasion.
To Italians who have borne the brunt of the austerity measures he passed in late 2011 to shore up public finances, he has pledged to cut labor taxes and redistribute wealth from the richest to the poorest if he wins.
But on Thursday he said he was not considering an annual tax levy on wealth, though he said it was not a “taboo” topic.
Reporting By Catherine Hornby; Editing by Naomi O'Leary and Robin Pomeroy