Italian crisis set to linger as press meeting called off


Italian prime minister Mario Monti has cancelled his traditional end-of-year press conference, scheduled for tomorrow, an indication that the government crisis will drag on, probably up to Christmas Eve.

It had been widely anticipated that following the approval of the budget, President Giorgio Napolitano would dissolve parliament, possibly tomorrow morning. Then Mr Monti, who offered his “irrevocable” resignation two weeks ago, would be free to finally declare his own immediate intentions.

When he does face the press, Mr Monti is expected to announce that he is about to relinquish his “technocrat” super partes role by lending his name to a centrist electoral list in the upcoming general election.

Berlusconi accused

However, the budget’s progress through parliament has been slower than anticipated, so it could be Saturday or Sunday before it is approved. Centre-left PD figures yesterday accused former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi of deliberately slowing its passage through parliament to suit his own electoral purposes.

Mr Monti believes it would be incorrect of him to announce his own political plans until his mandate as technocratic head of a cross-party government is formally ended.

In the meantime, he held a meeting at government house yesterday with several key figures in the centrist group, Towards the Third Republic, to which he may lend his name and his austerity agenda.

Among those to meet him were Ferrari president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini and Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Sant’Egidio lay movement and a minister in the Monti cabinet.

PDL dissidents

Others who may be tempted to join the Lista Monti include a number of PDL dissidents such as lower house speaker Gianfranco Fini and former interior minister Beppe Pisanu.

While Mr Monti remains tight-lipped about his intentions, the same can hardly be said of Mr Berlusconi, whose PDL party was instrumental in the downfall of the Monti government. In yet another lengthy TV interview/ address, Mr Berlusconi suggested that, given time, he might himself poll 40 per cent of the vote. He said he was “the only one in Europe who understands anything about economics”, unlike all those “professional politicians and trade unionists such as Merkel and her sidekick, Sarkozy”.