Monti, Bersani signal post-election alliance in Italy

'I appreciate center left's opening' says outgoing premier

Monti, Bersani signal post-election alliance in Italy

Pordenone, February 5 - Outgoing Premier Mario Monti responded positively on Tuesday after centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani said he was open to the possibility of working with the former European commissioner after this month's vote in Italy. "I appreciate all openings, including that of Bersani," said Monti, who is standing on a reform ticket backed by centrist parties. "I will be willing to ally with all of those, and only those, who work for structural (economic) reforms". Earlier Tuesday centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani said he would be willing to work with Monti after the election February 24 and 25. Bersani's alliance is in front in the opinion polls with over a third of Italians expected to vote for it, but ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right coalition has been gaining ground in recent weeks. The centre left, led by Bersani's Democratic Party (PD), is still favoured to win the election, but it may not have a working majority in parliament. This has led to speculation that Bersani could make a post-election pact with former European commissioner Monti, who took the helm of an emergency government in November 2011 and is standing for office on a reform platform backed by several centrist parties. "We are very ready to cooperate with all the forces that are against the Northern League, against Berlusconi, against populism," Bersani said in Berlin. "And therefore certainly with professor Monti," he added, stressing that the PD had wanted and supported Monti's administration of unelected technocrats. The hypothesis of working with Monti could be problematic because the PD is allied with the left-wing SEL party, which was staunchly opposed to Monti's government. Monti, whose ticket was fourth in a poll released Tuesday, has repeatedly said the PD's ties with SEL will make it difficult for the centre left to govern effectively if it wins the election. Both SEL leader Nichi Vendola, the governor of Puglia, and the outgoing premier have said they would not be in the same government together. Meanwhile Bersani's centre-left coalition stopped its slide in the opinion polls on Tuesday when it increased its lead over Berlusconi's centre-right alliance. The centre left saw its lead over the centre right rise to 5.5% in the latest SWG poll, 0.5% higher than in the previous survey on Friday. The centre left had 33.6% of the projected vote, compared to 32.8% on Friday. Support for Berlusconi's alliance also increased, but by less, gaining 0.3% to reach 28.1%. The centre left's once mighty advantage in the polls has been whittled down in recent weeks after Berlusconi embarked on a media blitz. The centre-left coalition also saw its standing in the polls fall last week following a derivatives scandal at the Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) bank, which has historic ties to the PD. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement (MS5) of comedian Beppe Grillo was steady in third place at 18% in Tuesday's poll. Monti's centrist coalition dropped 0.9% with 13.3% of projected votes. Civil Revolution, a new party led by Palermo anti-Mafia magistrate Antonio Ingroia, fell 0.1% to 4.9%, still above the 4% threshold needed in order to qualify for seats.

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