Monti attacks Berlusconi as vote day nears
Former PM accused of trying to ‘buy votes’
Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti accused his media magnate rival Silvio Berlusconi of trying to buy votes with impossible promises yesterday as Italy’s election campaign entered its last phase.
With the February 24-25 vote just two weeks away, polls suggest the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) will win a solid lower-house majority but may need a deal with Monti’s centrists to gain the control of the Senate it must have to govern.
Although both centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani and Monti have rejected suggestions of an unspoken deal, their attacks have concentrated heavily on 76-year-old former prime minister Berlusconi, whose strong campaigning has eaten into Bersani’s once-huge opinion poll lead.
Berlusconi “continues to make promises that try to buy the votes of Italians with money that belongs to Italians”, Monti told a rally in Milan.
Berlusconi, who stepped down in 2011 as the financial crisis threatened to push Italy’s huge public debt out of control, has hammered away with calls for lower taxes and an abolition of the hated IMU housing levy passed by Monti’s technocrat government.
He also said he favoured a sweeping amnesty on unpaid taxes although he later said this was not part of his coalition’s official platform. “This may be able to stir up popularity but it would be the proof of a country completely lacking any memory,” Monti said.
In a separate television interview, the former European Commissioner said Italy’s partners feared a return of Berlusconi, who has made attacks on the EU and German Chancellor Angela Merkel a central feature of his electoral campaign.
“They’ve had enough of an Italy which puts itself, the eurozone and Europe at risk through its political fragility, its inability to take decisions and its financial indiscipline,” he told Italy’s TGCom24 television.
Roberto Maroni, head of Berlusconi’s coalition partners, the pro-devolution Northern League, who is running for governor of Lombardy, home of the financial capital Milan, said Monti was obviously preparing for a de facto alliance with the left.
“Monti is ready to commit incest with Bersani to get his hands on Lombardy,” he tweeted yesterday.
Speculation over post-election alliances has increased in the wake of a non-stop media campaign by Berlusconi that has enabled him to cut the centre-left lead to around six points and threaten what had once appeared its near-certain victory.
Election rules give a minimum 54 per cent lower-house majority to the group winning the biggest overall vote share.