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Bersani Says He Backs Role for Monti in Italy After Vote

Head of Italy's Democratic Party Pier Luigi Bersani
Head of Italy's Democratic Party Pier Luigi Bersani gestures during a news conference in Rome. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Italy’s Pier Luigi Bersani, the front-runner for next year’s parliamentary elections, said he wants Prime Minister Mario Monti to remain in public service after the vote.

“I confirm my absolute resolution and intention to see Prime Minister Monti engaged again,” Bersani, head of Italy’s Democratic Party, said today at a conference at the foreign press association in Rome. “The role will be discussed.”

Bersani confirmed his adherence to Monti’s austerity program. The Democrat helped bring Monti to power in November 2011 in what was described then as an emergency administration. Monti and his unelected Cabinet of professors and bureaucrats shielded Italy from the worst of Europe’s debt crisis by raising taxes and reforming the pension and labor markets.

Italy’s presidency, which is decided by parliament, or a role in a Bersani government have been cited by analysts as possibilities for Monti. The 69-year-old unelected premier, who today declined to comment on his future, is also being pressed by some lawmakers to seek a second term.

“We have to reason it through together,” Bersani, 61, said of Monti’s role after the election.

Italian elections may be held on Feb. 17, Ansa reported Dec. 12, citing Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri. Monti was forced on Dec. 8 to announce his intention to resign after losing the support of billionaire former premier Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi is now campaigning against Monti’s austerity agenda.

“I reiterate that the rigor and credibility brought to the world by Monti’s government are for us a point of no return,” Bersani said.

Italian Polls

The Democratic Party, or PD, had 33 percent support in an ISPO Richerche Srl poll published Dec. 12, compared with 16 percent for Berlusconi’s People of Liberty and 18 percent for Beppe Grillo’s anti-austerity Five Star Movement. Three so-called centrist parties, which are pushing for Monti, had a total of 8.8 percent support in the poll.

The Italian campaign was thrown into turbulence last week when Berlusconi, who has won three elections since 1994, announced he would run. The 76-year-old former premier has appealed to voters by blaming Monti’s austerity for the recession and saying Italy was a victim of European economic policy that has favored Germany.

While Bersani said he also believed Germany has benefited from the relative increase in Italy’s borrowing costs, the PD leader blamed Berlusconi and not European policy.

“Public opinion in Germany is right when it says that some countries didn’t take advantage of the decline in interest rates to make reforms,” Bersani said. “It’s true. For us in Italy, this is the fault of Berlusconi, who wasted the moment.”

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