22nd Oct 2016

Monti to resign after Berlusconi seeks comeback

  • Troubles ahead: Italy's borrowing costs are already rising (Photo: Giampaolo Macorig)

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Saturday (8 December) said he will step down after media magnate Silvio Berlusconi left him without a majority in parliament and announced he will stand again for elections.

After talks with Monti, the country's president, Giorgio Napolitano, issued a statement saying Monti "does not consider it possible to carry on his mandate and consequently made clear his intention to present his resignation."

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The technocrat took over the reigns of power after the scandal-prone Berlusconi stepped down last year amid market pressure and a sense of desperation from his EU peers.

Berlusconi's People of Freedom party had so far supported Monti's government, but on Thursday, his senators boycotted a vote on economic reforms.

Berlusconi on Saturday made clear he will run again in the upcoming elections, as he felt a "responsibility" towards his country to do so.

Markets promptly sent up Italy's borrowing costs.

The head of eurozone's bailout fund, Klaus Regling, told Sueddeutsche Zeitung "markets have reacted with concern to the developments of last week" and insisted for Monti's successor not to undo what the technocrat has managed to push through in terms of reforms.

EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso also warned that the relative calm on financial markets does not mean Italy has overcome the crisis. "The upcoming elections should not serve as a pretext to question the necessity of reforms," Barroso said.

But the New York Times raises the possibility for Monti to run as a candidate in the early elections, most likely to be held in February.

The well-respected economist and former EU commissioner has improved Italy's standing in the European Union and the world. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande regularly consulted with him on the euro crisis, after Italy had been left out in the cold in its Berlusconi years.

Monti's legitimacy was shaky however, as he had not been elected, but appointed Prime Minister from his post as life-long senator.

In past months, Monti has said he could return as Prime Minister, depending on the outcome of the elections.

As for the 76-year old Berlusconi, he was convicted of tax fraud in October and is on trial for sex with an underage prostitute. He denies any wrongdoing and wants to appeal the verdict.

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