Rome

Monti rejects Berlusconi's claim of PD vote share

Outgoing premier does not exclude collaboration with many forces

Monti rejects Berlusconi's claim of PD vote share

Rome, February 13 - Outgoing Premier Mario Monti Wednesday rejected ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's claim that a vote for his coalition was effectively a vote for the Democratic Party (PD). "This is a profound falsehood, which I believe Berlusconi knows," Monti told journalists in Perugia. "In the PD-SEL (center-left) coalition I see many profound obstacles to reforms undertaken by my government that are essential to create a more dynamic Italian economy and society," Monti said. Leader of the left-wing SEL party and center-left coalition partner Nichi Vendola was opposed to Monti's emergency technocrat government, unlike coalition leader Pier Luigi Bersani's Democratic Party (PD), which supported it. Both Vendola and the outgoing premier have said they would not be in the same government together, although the Italian press has speculated they might reach an accomodation. With around 10% of projected votes, Monti's coalition has said it will support any party, right or left, if it upholds the reform policies his government has implemented since replacing Berlusconi at the peak of the euro crisis near the end of 2011. Polls have suggested that Bersani's PD is favoured to win the elections, but may not have a working majority in the Senate. This has led to speculation that Bersani could make a post-election pact with former European commissioner Monti, who is standing for office on a reform platform and polling fourth for the February 24-25 vote. Monti said that he had no regrets about getting into politics when he stepped in at the height of the euro crisis 15 months ago. Speaking at an ANSA forum, Monti said he had been happy to accept the invitation from President Giorgio Napolitano to become a life Senator and take over from Silvio Berlusconi with Italy on the brink of a Greece-style crisis. "It was his choice, not mine," said the former European commissioner. As for his decision to run for premier at the head of a reformist coalition, criticised by Berlusconi, Monti said "up till now, I haven't regretted it (but) everything depends on the result". But he added that the move, which he has repeatedly said was against his nature, came at the cost of "great personal sacrifice". The premier denied having dropped reservations about being in government with Vendola. "There has not been any type of opening on my part with Vendola," Monti told ANSA. Monti said political interference in the Italian economy was "depressing". The former European Union trust-buster cited an ongoing corruption probe involving government-controlled aerospace giant Finmeccanica and voiced the hope he might be able to change things if he had a continuing part in government following the elections. Monti said that he did "not exclude that a fairly long period of collaboration with all available forces" could be needed as Italy exits from its financial emergency. Monti said an election win for Berlusconi would pose "big risks of reviving the financial fire" Italy was going through when Monti took over from Berlusconi 15 months ago. In Germany, honorary Christian Social Union (CSU) President Edmund Stoiber also said on Wednesday that if Berlusconi wins in the upcoming elections, "all of Europe will pay the price". The former Bavarian regional chief said at a political Ash Wednesday rally in Passau that "one can only hope that the Italian people hold up a red card in the coming elections". Monti accused Berlusconi of making "unlimited promises" in his election bid. Monti promised a "radical" plan for schools in Italy and to cut expenses for Italian families. His plan, which he outlined at the ANSA forum, includes more school resources, evaluating quality standards, new policies for staff, and "sustaining families by reducing costs incurred". It would be a "great idea" to vote a woman as next Italian president, Monti said, and added he was happy he had three women in key posts, at justice, interior and labour.

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