Monti expected to enter political fray

Premier likely to announce agenda, then decide on standing

Monti expected to enter political fray

(see related story on Berlusconi) Rome, December 20 - Premier Mario Monti is expected to announce he is entering the political fray at the weekend, although the level of his involvement is uncertain. The former European commissioner has been at the helm of an emergency administration of unelected technocrats since Silvio Berlusconi was forced to resign as premier last year when Italy's debt crisis threatened to spiral out of control. Monti, who is not currently aligned to a political party, is set to speak about his own future on Saturday or Sunday after resigning from office once the 2013 budget law is passed. According to political commentators, he is expected to present an agenda which he thinks Italy's next government should pursue. This is likely to follow the lines adopted by his administration, which has passed austerity measures to put Italy's public finances in order and steer the country away from the centre of the eurozone crisis, as well as introducing a series of structural economic reforms. A few days later pundits expect him to announce whether he will actually stand as the premier candidate for a group of centrist parties in elections set to take place on February 24. Monti met a group of centrists political figures, including UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini, on Wednesday. Casini said after the meeting that Monti has not yet decided whether to stand. Berlusconi has offered to step back as centre-right leader if Monti agrees to lead all of Italy's centrist and conservative parties "to keep out the left". Pundits say Monti is unlikely to take him up on his offer. Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party caused Monti to announce he would resign once the 2013 budget law is passed after it stopped backing the government two weeks ago.

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