(see related wrap) Rome, January 3 - Outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti came under a barrage of criticism on Thursday after making some hard-hitting comments as the campaign for next month's general elections heats up. Former European commissioner Monti was at the helm of an emergency technocrat government from November 2011 until last month while staying on as caretaker premier and he is standing to retain office on a reform platform. He called his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi "volatile" and said his centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party was taking extreme stances on economic issues. He also suggested the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) should suppress anti-reform elements within its ranks. Centre-left premier candidate Pier Luigi Bersani, the PD's leader, said he had no intention of silencing anyone in his party. "I have respect (for Monti), but I ask for respect for the entire PD. We are a liberal party that will never shut anyone up," said Bersani, adding that courage "did not mean shutting people up, but enabling them to participate". Italy's biggest trade-union confederation, the left-wing GCIL, also attacked after Monti accused it of obstructing structural economic reforms. "He doesn't know this country," said Susanna Camusso, the leader of the CGIL, which has strong ties with the PD. "He offers criticism but very few proposals. If he has decided to stand in elections he should discuss his platforms. "We've all seen his so-called reforms," added Camusso. "Poverty, unemployment and human frailty are all on the rise in this country". Berlusconi, meanwhile, blasted Monti as an academic who is out of touch with the real world. "Monti is a professor and professors... are distant from reality, which they look at through the keyhole while they have an assured salary and do not know the difficulties of businesses," Berlusconi said on Italian radio. Berlusconi added that Italy should have had early elections in November 2011 when the financial crisis forced him to end his third term as Italian premier rather than making way for Monti's emergency government of unelected technocrats. He also repeated criticism of the economic record of Monti's government. "Everything has happened in a year. There has been the disaster of the technocrat government and we are in the full throes of a recession," Berlusconi said. Puglia Governor Nichi Vendola, the leader of the left-wing SEL party, expressed irritation after Monti suggested the PD should break off its electoral alliance with his party. Monti said it was always good to "cut the wings" and suggested he could govern with the PD after the elections if it broke with the SEL. "There's an element of arrogance (in what Monti says) that should be rejected," Vendola said. "Mario Monti is going around Pier Luigi Bersani to do a dance of death for him".