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Monti Serving Second Term Best for Italy, Rutelli Says

Interim Prime Minister Mario Monti
Interim Prime Minister Mario Monti. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Unelected Prime Minister Mario Monti serving a second term is the best way to finish overhauling the economy and resolve issues that have “paralyzed” the nation, said Francesco Rutelli, head of the Alliance for Italy party.

“This isn’t just a government serving out the last 15 months of the current legislature,” Rutelli, a former mayor of Rome, said yesterday in a phone interview. “Monti staying on is the only way out, so that the government is in the hands of an absolutely competent personality, who is up to the task.”

Rutelli, the center-left’s candidate for premier who lost to Silvio Berlusconi in 2001, is the latest politician to openly call for Monti to stay on after elections due before May of next year. Former Premier Berlusconi, whose resignation in November paved the way for Monti’s appointment, said on March 1 that he was open to a post-vote alliance that may back Monti.

While Italy has had so-called technical governments in the past, none lasted more than about a year. Monti’s Cabinet of non-politicians took over on Nov. 16 as Italy’s borrowing costs hovered at record highs. They’re now near six-month lows after he pushed through measures to balance the budget, spark growth and cut bureaucracy, and the European Central Bank boosted demand for sovereign debt by offering unlimited loans to banks.

Won’t be Asked

In a Feb. 29 interview in Rome, Monti told Bloomberg News that he was kick-starting a “generational change” in Italy’s economic culture that can’t be completed during his limited time in office. “If I do with my colleagues in government our job very well, I don’t think it’s very likely that I will be asked” to serve another term, he said.

The yield on Italy’s benchmark 10-year bond fell 10 basis points to 4.97 percent at 2 p.m. in Rome. That’s down from 7 percent when Monti took over. The difference with similar maturity German bunds fell 10 basis point to 318 basis points, down from a euro-era high of 552 basis points on Nov. 9.

Monti’s approval rating increased 2 percentage points to 59 percent in a Feb. 28 poll by IPR Marketing. In a survey released yesterday, IPR said that a hypothetical party led by Monti, in the next elections would win 22 percent of the vote, matching the Democratic Party and topping all the other groups.

Broad Support

Monti’s government has so far been backed by Italy’s two biggest blocs, Berlusconi’s People of Liberty, or PDL, and the Democratic Party led by Pier Luigi Bersani.

The strongest support for Monti has come from the Third Way, an alliance that includes Rutelli’s API; the Future and Liberty for Italy party of former Berlusconi ally Gianfranco Fini; and the Union of Centrists led by Pier Ferdinando Casini, who has also called for an alliance with the larger parties to back Monti.

Monti cancelled a meeting with Casini, Bersani and PDL leader Angelino Alfano scheduled for tonight in Rome, after Alfano said he would not attend, Ansa news agency reported citing unnamed government officials. Monti plans to try to reschedule, Ansa said.

Monti, 68, an economist and former European Union competition commissioner, is unlikely to run as a candidate in the next elections, Rutelli said yesterday. The most probable scenario would be that after the vote, the leading parties pool their support and ask Monti, who is also a senator-for-life in the upper house of Parliament, to lead a new government.

Monti Won’t Run

“Monti will bring us to the elections, but he won’t participate in the elections,” Rutelli said. “After the election, we will count the votes and we will see what the results look like, and I think at that point, Parliament would give Monti a new mandate,” he said.

Bersani has shied away from endorsing any post-election alliance. His Democratic Party, heirs of the Italian Communist Party, led in yesterday’s IPR poll with 28 percent support of the vote when excluding a hypothetical group led by Monti.

“After the elections, an alliance between the Democratic Party with the Third Way and the PDL will be inevitable,” Rutelli said. “Until then, I’m afraid they will be compelled to cultivate this hypocrisy and continue to rule out a national-unity government.”

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