Monti Quits Party Leadership After Criticizing Italian Budget

Former Prime Minister Mario Monti, the economics professor who imposed austerity on Italy in 2011, quit the leadership of his political party after criticizing the policies of his successor, Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

Monti stepped down as president of Civic Choice, the third-biggest party in Letta’s coalition, because his objection to the government’s 2014 budget put him at odds with 12 of the party’s senators, Monti said in a statement on the group’s website late yesterday. Monti, a senator now, will leave the Civic Choice caucus in the upper house while staying in the Senate, he said.

The 12 senators gave what amounted to “a motion of no confidence in me” when they expressed satisfaction with the budget, Monti said. “I accept it.”

Letta, 47, is consolidating his authority in the coalition after five months of uneasy collaboration with Monti, 70, and Silvio Berlusconi, a three-time former premier. On Oct. 2, Berlusconi lost control of his People of Liberty, the alliance’s second-biggest party, after some of its senior lawmakers deserted him and threw their support behind Letta.

The 2014 budget, which Letta’s cabinet approved on Oct. 15, didn’t include enough tax cuts or measures to spur Italy’s stagnant economy, Monti said. Defense Minister Mario Mauro, who joined Monti in Civic Choice in January and currently sits in the Senate, bucked the party line by giving unconditional support to the government, Monti said.

Letta’s Budget

Letta, in his first budget, reshaped the austerity that Monti used in his 17 months as premier to shield Italy from Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Letta reaffirmed the country’s commitment to deficit reduction while funding a payroll-tax cut with 3.5 billion euros ($4.8 billion) of spending reductions.

Pier Ferdinando Casini, who joined Monti after years in alliance with Berlusconi, and former Milan Mayor Gabriele Albertini are among the other 11 senators whose statements prompted Monti to quit.

Monti struggled to connect with voters as he led Civic Choice to a fourth-place finish in February elections. A former European Competition Commissioner, Monti was a university president in November 2011 when Italian President Giorgio Napolitano appointed him premier with an emergency mandate to raise taxes and protect against bond market speculation.

Civic Choice was created in January.

“I won’t lower my commitment to help affirm the values and vision for which, I trust, all those who joined Civic Choice for Italy will continue to strive,” Monti said.

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