Monti Works ‘Seduction’ Among Italy’s Unwilling CandidatesAndrew Frye and Chiara Vasarri
Caretaker Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti introduced members of his Civic Choice party at a rally and presented them as unwilling candidates who accepted parliamentary nominations as personal sacrifice.
“I don’t believe I have great powers of seduction and in particular of political seduction,” Monti said yesterday in a speech in Bergamo, Italy, as he addressed the candidates in attendance. “It was greatly satisfying to see how you were ready to give way, how you were ready to waver already at my first telephone phone call.”
Italian politicians are characterizing themselves as reluctant as the recession-scarred country prepares for its first general election since 2008. Voters have heaped blame for rising joblessness and weakening output on Italy’s 949 senators and representatives and turned to parties like Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement in protest against career politicians.
Monti, 69, is tapping into voter frustration by filling his list, called “Civic Choice,” with political neophytes. Monti himself is running a national campaign for the first time as his 14-month premiership has been carried out at the head of a so-called technocratic government of professors and bureaucrats. By appealing directly to voters for a second term, Monti suggested at the rally, he is giving up a chance to be Italy’s president.
Monti said his decision was “to try to give life to this movement rather than maybe go on for seven years in a very high-level position that is less relevant for changing Italy.”
The new head of state will be elected by Italy’s parliament when Italian President Giorgio Napolitano’s term ends this year. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for Feb. 24-25.
The ranks of Italy’s self-professed unwilling candidates include Silvio Berlusconi, the three-time former prime minister, who has portrayed himself as the only leader capable of saving the country from left-leaning politicians he calls communists. Monti, who said he needed to be persuaded to run, told the rally he entered politics to prevent his rivals from undoing his reforms and his legacy of budget rigor.
Monti credited Ferrari SpA Chairman Luca Cordero Di Montezemolo and International Cooperation Minister Andrea Riccardi with overcoming his initial objections.
Montezemolo and Riccardi “got the better of the argument, and I had the worse,” Monti said. “That’s why I’m here today,” he said, drawing applause.
Monti leads a coalition with 13.7 percent public support, according to an SWG Institute poll last week. That places him fourth behind center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani with 33 percent support, Berlusconi with 27.2 percent and Grillo with 16.8 percent, according to SWG.
Italy, with a population of about 60 million, has 630 representatives in the lower house of parliament, called the Chamber of Deputies. In the upper house, there are 315 elected senators and four senators with lifetime appointments. That’s almost twice the size of the U.S. Congress.
At Monti’s rally yesterday, Lidia Rota Vender spoke to the crowd about her initial reluctance to accept the invitation to become a candidate and her eventual acceptance. A doctor and mother of four, Rota Vender said she decided she would have no right to complain about politicians if she declined Monti’s offer.
Monti is scheduled to meet Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, today in Rome.