Saturday, November 18, 2017

Will he or won't he? Italy awaits Monti's decision

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ROME — Italy's president dissolved parliament Saturday, setting the stage for general elections in February and leaving only one lingering question from Premier Mario Monti's 13-month term trying to fix Italy's troubled finances: whether he will run.

Monti will announce his decision today, ending weeks of speculation and jockeying that have dominated Italy's political discourse and preoccupied much of Europe, which is eager to see Monti's financial reforms continue in the continent's third-largest economy.

With polls showing a Monti-led list would only garner about 15 percent of the vote, all signs indicated he would refrain from campaigning or even allowing his name to be used on a political ticket grouping a handful of small centrist parties.

"Monti leaning towards a 'no,' " the Turin daily La Stampa headlined today. "Monti pulls back on running," Corriere della Sera said on its front page.

Whether he might endorse a centrist movement is another matter.

"It's clear that Monti's candidacy would give authority to our political platform, but we'll respect his choices, whatever they may be," said Pier Ferdinando Casini, one of the centrist leaders who have been actively courting Monti in recent weeks.

Monti resigned Friday after former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's party withdrew its support from his technocrat-led government, forcing a crisis that brought a premature and chaotic end to the legislature's five-year term.

Monti was tapped by Italy's president to lead the country in late November 2011 after Berlusconi was forced to resign, having lost the confidence of international markets in his ability to save the country from a Greek-style debt crisis.

The respected economist and former European Union commissioner won back a degree of international credibility for the country through a series of tax hikes and fiscal reforms that were deeply unpopular at home.

Italy's borrowing rates have come down significantly, thanks also to the European Central Bank's bond-buying program.

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