Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is under increasing pressure to put off his resignation and stand in the upcoming elections after Silvio Berlusconi shocked the world by offering to drop his own bid for the top job.
The two political leaders attended the European People’s Party in Brussels, a group of centre-right parties. Monti’s attendance took everyone by surprise as he was not on the guest list or on the agenda. Berlusconi repeated the offer to stand aside if Monti agreed to run against the centre-left who are expected to win the next election.
“There were a lot of expressions of support for a Monti candidacy,” a member of the European parliament told Reuters. “But Monti didn’t resolve the dilemma.”
Berlusconi centre-right People of Freedom (PD) party withdrew support from Monti’s government in parliament last week, prompting him to resign. Many observers are confused as to what game Berlusconi is playing as it was only last Saturday that he announced that he would run. The uncertainty hitting Italy’s political scene is now even more muddled and confused after this latest stunt. Opinion polls suggest Berlusconi has no real chance of winning the election, and markets have calmed as a result.
To the markets Monti is by far the most popular choice. Under his leadership he has managed to restore Italy’s international credibility repairing the damage created under Berlisconi’s rule.
Current opinion polls in Italy are showing that the centre-Left Democratic Party is enjoying a strong lead against its opponents.
“The only certainty about the upcoming election is that Bersani is going to win hands down,” said Roberto D’Alimonte, a politics professor at Rome’s Luis University.
Depending on whether Mr Monti does indeed choice to throw his hat into the ring, that outcome may be different.
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