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‘Monti should stay out of campaign’

Election bid damages PM’s independent status

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti arrives at the EU headquarters yesterday in Brussels, on the last day of a two-day European Union leaders summit. Photo: AFP

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti arrives at the EU headquarters yesterday in Brussels, on the last day of a two-day European Union leaders summit. Photo: AFP

Italy’s main centre-left party, leading polls for next year’s election, criticised calls for Prime Minister Mario Monti to run for a second term, a move one of the party’s leading figures said would be “morally questionable”.

The Democratic Party (PD) has supported Monti’s technocrat Government in Parliament. But, while it has pledged to continue his fiscal discipline and wants him to stay on in some role after the election, it says he should stay out of the campaign, which polls suggest he would lose anyway.

“It would be illogical and in a certain sense morally questionable if the professor were to enter the race against the main political force which supported him in his reform efforts,” Massimo D’Alema, a former prime minister and an influential centre-left elder statesman told yesterday’s daily Corriere della Sera. “I have great esteem for him and I hope he doesn’t.”

Centre-right candidate Silvio Berlusconi has offered to stand aside to allow a Monti candidacy.

European politicians from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to French President Francois Hollande also heaped praise on Monti and at a meeting of European centre-right parties on Thursday, he was urged by a number of politicians to run in the election.

Monti himself avoided commenting on his political future yesterday, telling a news conference in Brussels it would not be “either possible or appropriate” for him to speak on the matter.

Industry Minister Corrado Passera also declined to comment on whether Monti would be a candidate in the vote, expected by February, “at least for now”.

“I’m confident that our work will continue under a new government and a new parliament,” Passera said at an Italy-American conference in New York. He added that he thought the worst was over for the eurozone’s third-biggest economy and that it would improve in the second half of 2013.

Monti’s austerity measures have helped lower borrowing costs since he took over in a financial crisis last year. Italy’s public debt nonetheless rose above two trillion euros for the first time in October, according to the Bank of Italy yesterday.

PD party leader Pier Luigi Bersani said on Thursday he would call in Monti to perform some kind of role immediately after the election. But he has said it would be better for the respected former economics professor to stay out of the campaign.

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