Caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti said he would head a unified list of centrist political forces in the Senate vote of Italy’s national elections in February, effectively joining the race to become the country’s next premier.
Monti, speaking in a televised press conference in Rome, said he would lead the moderate groups supporting his political agenda announced Dec. 23. Monti’s announcement today takes his political role in the upcoming vote a step further after saying five days ago that he would “consider” a request to seek the premiership in the election.
“Today a new political movement is being formed,” Monti said. He is heading a coalition that includes small parties led by Catholic politician Pier Ferdinando Casini and Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the Ferrari SpA chairman, who formed a new movement in an attempt to lure Monti into the race.
Several European political leaders and Italy’s business elite have called on Monti to end his status as a non-partisan independent and run in the elections to safeguard his revamp of the Italian economy. His efforts, including an overhaul of pension and labor laws, helped tame the country’s public finances and restore investor confidence, while deepening the country’s fourth recession since 2001.
“There’s still an economic crisis, it’s an unemployment one,” Monti said today.
The announcement “sets the stage for a potentially divisive election campaign centered around Mr. Monti’s economic agenda,” Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London, said in a note to clients.
In Italy, voters don’t choose a prime minister candidate directly. They cast ballots for a party list or coalition, which picks its candidate for premier. Monti already is a senator for life so he doesn’t have to run for a seat in Parliament. Monti said the parties supporting him, such as Casini’s UDC, would run individually in the Chamber of Deputies, the body that chooses the premier after the elections.
Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the Democratic Party and its candidate for premier, is the favorite to win the premiership, according to recent opinion polls.
Bersani “is likely to come under more pressure internally to distance himself from Mr. Monti’s liberal economic program,” Spiro wrote.
Italian election law makes it more difficult to win a majority in the Senate because it gives more weight to parties that have a strong regional base. Running a unified list in the Senate would give Monti’s coalition a better chance of gaining seats in the upper chamber.