Rome

Italy 'needs Monti' independently of election results

'May the best man win', says Casini

Italy 'needs Monti' independently of election results

Rome, January 4 - Italy will always need ''the intelligence, prestige and ability of Mario Monti'' independently of the outcome of next month's general elections, the leader of the small centrist Catholic party UDC Pier Ferdinando Casini said on Friday. On December 21 Monti tendered his resignation as leader of a technocrat government brought in 13 months previously to shore up the economy against a spiralling debt crisis. He is now campaigning to remain in office on a reform platform supported by the UDC and the Italia Futura political movement founded by Ferrari Chairman and former industrial employers' association Confindustria boss Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. Casini said the election competition was between Monti and the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) Pier Luigi Bersani, who emerged victorious as the party's candidate for premier following primaries in November. ''Let the best man win,'' he said, adding that Bersani will only become prime minister if his party or coalition obtains a clear majority in both houses of parliament. Casini also noted that the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) founded by ex premier Silvio Berlusconi, the biggest party in the outgoing parliament, is in a ''state of confusion (while) Berlusconi has not even managed to unite people around himself''. After a string of financial scandals and amid Berlusconi's trial for allegedly paying an underage prostitute for sex the PdL is currently lagging the PD in opinion polls by about 15 points, abreast of comic Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment Five Star Movement but at least five points ahead of Monti.

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