Departing premier says he’ll lead if asked
Mario Monti leaves leadership bid open without entering February elections.
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.”