De­part­ing pre­mier says he’ll lead if asked

Mario Monti leaves lead­er­ship bid open with­out en­ter­ing Fe­bru­ary elec­tions.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Frances D’emilo

ROME — Af­ter keep­ing Ital­ians and the rest of Europe in sus­pense for weeks, care­taker Pre­mier Mario Monti on Sun­day ruled out cam­paign­ing in Fe­bru­ary elec­tions, but said he would con­sider lead­ing the next government if politi­cians who share his fo­cus on re­form re­quest it.

The de­ci­sion po­si­tions him to take the helm again with­out hav­ing to get into the po­lit­i­cal nitty-gritty of an elec­tion — pre­serv­ing his im­age as some­one above the fray who can make tough de­ci­sions on im­pos­ing aus­ter­ity.

His pre­vi­ous mea­sures have boosted con­fi­dence in Italy’s fi­nances, and fel­low Euro­pean lead­ers have made no se­cret they want to keep them in place.

Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni, the scan­dal-tainted ex-pre­mier con­sid­er­ing an­other run, com­mented scathingly on Monti’s open­ness to an­other term.

“I had a night­mare — still hav­ing a government with Monti,” the me­dia mogul said in an in­ter­view on state TV. He has said in the past that he would run again if Monti did not, but made no com­mit­ment Sun­day about his own po­lit­i­cal fu­ture.

Monti, who af­ter his res­ig­na­tion Fri­day is con­tin­u­ing in a care­taker role, ruled out head­ing any ticket — even a cen­ter­right group­ing that Ber­lus­coni said he would be will­ing to back.

But the 69-year-old econ­o­mist made it clear he was will­ing to take an­other turn in power.

“If one or more po­lit­i­cal forces is cred­i­bly back­ing (my) agenda or even has a bet­ter one, I’d eval­u­ate the of­fer,” Monti said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence.

Monti re­fused to head any ticket him­self, say­ing “I have no sym­pa­thy for ‘per­sonal’ par­ties.”

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