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Italy's PM Monti to resign as Berlusconi plans return

Italy faced the prospect of early elections on Sunday a day after a dramatic series of events saw Prime Minister Mario Monti announce that he will resign and disgraced former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi state that he would run again for office.


Italy looked to be gearing up for early elections on Sunday after Prime Minister Mario Monti said he would resign in the coming days, and Silvio Berlusconi announced that he would run again to head the government.

Monti "does not think it possible to continue his mandate and consequently made clear his intention to present his resignation," said a statement from President Giorgio Napolitano's office.

In an interview with Ferruccio De Bortoli, editor of top daily Corriere della Sera, Monti said “we could not continue like this any longer."

Monti explained that he made his decision after lawmakers from Berlusconi's People of Freedom party withdrew their support for his government last week in a symbolic protest, saying Italy was now economically worse off than before.

Party chief Angelino Alfano told parliament that Italy's debt, unemployment and tax rates had risen while the economy had plunging since Monti took over from Berlusconi at the head of a non-elected cabinet in November 2011.

"I felt profoundly hurt by these words," Monti was quoted as saying, adding that he wanted to make his announcement with "markets closed".

Monti also said he had noticed the "concern" of his interlocutors with Italy's political situation at an economic forum in Cannes on Saturday.

Market pressures

Investors have reacted nervously after the PDL abstained from two confidence votes in the government on Thursday, with the stock market plummeting and the differential between the yields on Italian and German benchmark bonds widening.

In the latest in a series of closed-door talks held by President Giorgio Napolitano with political leaders, Monti on Saturday told the president he will be stepping down as soon as parliament approves next year's budget.

The budget is expected before the end of the year but is only of several items pending before parliament, including key reforms whose future is unclear.

Elections would then have to be held within a minimum of 45 days and a maximum of 70 days, meaning a vote could come as early as February.

The current parliament's mandate runs out at the end of April.

Analysts believe that Monti could plan to re-enter politics after his resignation.

The irrepressible 76-year-old Berlusconi is running despite a fraud conviction earlier this year and an ongoing trial against him for having sex with an underage prostitute, as well as abusing his powers when he was premier.

“I am running to win”

"I am running to win," he said on Saturday, after declaring in October that he would not run.

He added: "When I did sport, when I worked and studied, I never entered into a competition to be well-placed but always to win."

Berlusconi was set to meet with PDL party leaders later on Saturday.

Most recent polls suggest Berlusconi's party is currently running in second or even third place, with the main centre-left Democratic Party led by ex-communist Pier Luigi Bersani expected to win the elections.

Massimo Nava, a journalist with popular Italian daily Corriere della Sera told FRANCE24 that Berlusconi’s influence over politics is not what it was.

“Berlusconi is politically dead. He is desperate and this is a last chance to keep a seat in the parliament and be the chief of his party,” Nava said. “But a lot of people who were once close to him are now thinking of abandoning ship to go with other parties or form new coalitions.”

(FRANCE24 with wires)

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