Monti Says He’s Open to Alliance With Forces Backing Berlusconi

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said his forging an alliance with forces now backing Silvio Berlusconi is as likely as any other deal he may make after elections next week.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” Monti said today in a televised interview on state-broadcaster RAI3. “There is absolutely no more probability that we’ll form an alliance with the center-left than with the post-Berlusconi center-right.”

Monti, 69, is appealing to Berlusconi supporters to maximize his influence over the next government. For more than a month now, Monti has stated his openness to a coalition with the frontrunner Pier Luigi Bersani of the center-left.

“I think many center-right voters want a modern social and market economy without too many obstacles from the state and politics,” Monti said.

Monti is fourth in opinion surveys, with 13.4 percent in a Feb. 6 poll by SWG Institute. That compares with 33.8 percent for Bersani’s coalition, 27.8 percent for Berlusconi, a three-time former prime minister, and 18.8 percent for Beppe Grillo’s euro-skeptic party, according to SWG.

Monti’s role may be decisive after the vote if Bersani fails to win a Senate majority. Bersani’s lead in opinion polls has narrowed since December, potentially increasing Monti’s influence. The Democratic Party, which Bersani leads, criticized Monti this week for his appeals to both the center-right and the center-left.

Decision Time

“It’s time for Monti to decide what side he’s on,” Anna Finocchiaro, chief whip of Italy’s Democratic Party in the Senate, said Feb. 13.

Monti, an unelected former economics professor, governed for 15 months with the support of both Bersani and Berlusconi, who put aside their traditional rivalry in November 2011 as Europe’s debt crisis threatened Italy. Monti imposed austerity that helped reduce borrowing costs, while deepening the country’s economic downturn.

“We had to exacerbate the recession a little bit this past year,” Monti said. “Interest rates could fall further, but we’re at natural levels.”

Italian 10-year bond yields fell 3 basis points to 4.38 percent at 11:47 a.m. in Rome. That’s down from 5.74 percent a year ago.

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