Monti Won’t Back Italian Government That Threatens EU Reforms

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he won’t back a new government that would threaten his country’s commitments to the Europe Union and that Italy should hold a new vote rather than install an administration that could reverse fiscal discipline.

In his most detailed comments since Feb. 24-25 elections produced a hung parliament and saw his coalition win less than 10 percent of the vote, Monti said none of Italy’s political parties is capable of addressing the country’s problems.

“If the alternative is a government oriented to interrupting Italy’s European path or the way of reforms, I believe it would be better to hold new elections,” Monti said at a press conference in Rome today.

Monti’s remarks came hours after Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani, whose coalition won a majority in the lower house of Parliament, presented a limited legislative agenda as he tries to build support for a minority government. Bersani, the front-runner going into the vote, was thwarted by former premier Silvio Berlusconi and comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, both of whom gained blocking minorities in the Senate.

“No political force” is capable of confronting the issues facing Italy, Monti told reporters. Grillo’s Five Star Movement “doesn’t appear remotely in a position to solve the problems.”

Grillo, who slammed Monti’s austerity policies and referred to the premier as Rigor Montis during the campaign, has called for an online referendum on leaving the euro and wants to reverse some of Monti’s key legislative efforts, such as easing Italy’s labor laws and overhauling the pension system.

Bersani Shift

Bersani also signaled a shift today in his support for Italy’s deficit and debt commitments, saying they were medium-term goals and that it was time for Italy to climb out of the “austerity cage” with more pro-growth policies.

Monti has invited Grillo, Bersani and Berlusconi for consultations before a European Union summit next week. Berlusconi and Bersani have confirmed that they will meet with Monti, while Grillo has not responded, Monti said.

Monti said the party he formed prior to the February vote would remain on the scene. Still, it was premature to speculate on what role Monti would play if new elections were held.

Italy’s new parliament will convene on March 15 to choose leaders of both houses, before President Giorgio Napolitano can begin consultations with the political parties on forming a new government. If no party can build a government, Napolitano can try to convince the parties to put aside their differences and back a so-called technical government led by a non-politician as a way to avoid another election.

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