The resignation of Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, expected by the end of this week, may be delayed after lawmakers from former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party asked for more time to examine the country’s budget bill.
Monti, who said Dec. 8 that he would resign once the 2013 budget was approved by parliament, today postponed his year-end press conference scheduled for Dec. 21, in which he was expected to clarify his political future. A new date hasn’t been set, his office said.
The parliament’s upper house originally was scheduled to vote on the budget yesterday before passing the legislation to the Chamber of Deputies for final approval, expected by Dec. 22. The Senate started its debate on the budget today at 3 p.m., making a final vote there unlikely before tomorrow. The Chamber would then take up the measure, making it difficult to secure final passage by the end of this week.
“It’s just an electoral tactic, Berlusconi has probably realized that Monti is not playing his game,” said Nicola Marinelli, who oversees $180 million at Glendevon King Asset Management in London. “Should the budget not be passed by the end of the year, concerns may return to financial markets, but this seems like a remote scenario to me.”
President Giorgio Napolitano said today it’s in the country’s interest to pass the budget quickly to avoid “institutional uncertainty.” Elections following a Monti resignation shouldn’t be pushed back, as the PDL is now requesting, Napolitano said in a statement.
Berlusconi said yesterday that elections should be delayed at least one or two weeks beyond the dates in February now being considered.
“This rush to go to elections is creating unnecessary pressure,” Berlusconi said on state-owned Rai television late yesterday.
The government has been trying to set elections for Feb. 17 or Feb. 24 since Monti announced his plan to resign after Berlusconi’s party withdrew parliamentary support. Under Italian law, elections would have to come between 45 and 70 days after the resignation.
Fabrizio Cicchitto, chief whip for the PDL in the Chamber, said yesterday the lower house will “take all the time necessary” to examine the budget, according to news agency Ansa.
“Berlusconi’s waiting game” on the elections and the budget approval is “undignified,” Ansa cited Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani as saying today in Brussels.
Monti is under pressure from euro-area and business leaders, as well as from centrists in Italy, to enter the election campaign. Berlusconi this month announced his candidacy for the premiership for a sixth time after pulling his support for Monti, only to backtrack and say he’d stay out of the race if Monti formed a “coalition of moderates.”
Monti has probably made his choice already and “he’s waiting for parliament to be dissolved,” Union of Centrists party leader Pier Ferdinando Casini told reporters today in Rome after a meeting with Monti that also included Toward a Third Republic movement leader Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.
Montezemolo later said his movement will start collecting signatures to present an electoral list.
The three biggest parties defining themselves as “pro-Monti” have a combined 9 percent of voter support, according to an SWG poll published Dec. 14.