Monti's vow to quit could bring Italian elections as early as February

 

Milan

Italy and Europe were tonight bracing themselves for a general election and the real possibility that the scandal-plagued billionaire Silvio Berlusconi could become prime minister for a fourth time.

The premier Mario Monti announced on Saturday he would step down as soon as parliament had approved next year's budget. By on Sunday evening pundits were suggesting the poll could be as early as mid-February if parliament passed the finance bill by the end of this year.

Mr Monti's move followed the decision by Mr Berlusconi's PDL (People of Freedom) Party to withdraw its support from the unelected technocrat administration, which was put in place a year ago after scandals and the debt crisis forced Mr Berlusconi out of office. "I came to the conclusion we could not continue like this any longer," Mr Monti told the Corriere della Sera. His government had a mandate until April.

The markets had already reacted nervously to the suggestion Mr Monti's stint as prime minister would end early, when the PDL withdrew its support on Thursday. Further share price falls and dramatic rises in Italy's borrowing costs were expected tomorrow morning. For several months Mr Berlusconi, 76, has been stepping up attacks on the Monti government, saying it has failed to create economic growth.

The final straw for the notoriously egotistical Mr Berlusconi appeared to be comments by Mr Monti's Economic Development Minister, Corrado Passera, that re-electing the tycoon would be a step backwards.

"I am running to win," Mr Berlusconi said, even though the polls suggest that the mogul and his divided party will be thrashed by the recently reinvigorated centre-left Democratic Party. Italy's left has demonstrated many times, however, its ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Mr Berlusconi, who was convicted of tax fraud in October, has motives other than pride for running again. The media tycoon is fearful that his already tarnished record will be stained with sex and abuse of office convictions in the Rubygate trial, a verdict in which is expected in the next two or three months. As Prime Minister, he would be better placed to impede the legal process.

Last night some political analysts suggested Mr Monti's decision could also be a way for him to follow his own political ambitions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before