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Berlusconi lashes out at Monti

Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi sharply criticised the decision by Mario Monti to run in Italy’s general elections and vowed to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the 2011 fall of his Government and appointment of Monti as Italy’s Prime Minister.

There was a serious wound to democracy inflicted not just on us but on all Italians

Berlusconi spoke out after Monti ended weeks of hedging and announced he would head a coalition of centrist forces, businessmen and pro-Vatican forces running for office in February 24-25 elections.

Berlusconi said he never ex­pected Monti to renege on his repeated assurances he “wouldn’t use the public prominence as head of a technical Government for an ulterior presence in politics”.

He said the decision represented a “loss of credibility” for Monti, a respected economist and former European Commissioner, and said if he is elected Premier he would immediately launch a parliamentary inquiry into the fall of his Government.

“There was a serious wound to democracy inflicted not just on us but on all Italians,” Mr Berlusconi said as he arrived at Milan’s train station after a trip from Rome.

He also attacked Monti of striking a hidden deal with the left to help them secure power after the elections.

However, Pier Ferdinando Casini, head of Italy’s oldest and largest centrist party, the UDC, which is backing Monti, has denied that any secret accord has been struck.

“The PD does not want a competitive and uncomfortable centrist grouping because they prefer the old and eternal fight with Berlusconi,” he said.

Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, beset by local cor-ruption scandals and still tainted by Berlusconi’s ill-fated last term, trails significantly in the polls behind the centre-left Democratic Party.

The Democrats, headed by Pier Luigi Bersani, are expected to win the election with about 30 per cent of the vote.

In a poll conducted by the CISE electoral research institute for Il Sole 24 Ore daily found that centre-left leader Bersani is the favourite among Italians to lead the next Government, with outgoing technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti second most popular and Silvio Berlusconi coming a close third.

Bersani scored 36.2 per cent for the vote, Monti garnered 23.3 per cent and Berlusconi had 21.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, Bersani yesterday called on Monti to pick which side he was on politically.

He urged the former European Commissioner to be clearer about whether he supports a left- or right-leaning agenda and outline the choices he would make on issues such as civil rights.

“This centrist alliance needs to explain exactly where they stand,” Bersani told reporters yesterday.

“Does Monti and the centre not think that the bipolar political system is working?

“Do they want to dismantle it? If not, then which side are they on?”

He repeated that the centre left would be open to discussing a possible alliance with Monti once his position was clearer.

Monti was appointed to head a technocrat government last year to save Italy from financial crisis after Berlusconi stepped down as Prime Minister.

While Monti has won the backing of investors, the business community and the Catholic Church, many Italians have become increasingly tired of the tax hikes and spending cuts he has imposed to shore up battered public finances.

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