Italian PM Monti hits back at 'volatile' Berlusconi

Italy's centre left should silence anti-reformists, Monti says

03 January, 13:19

(ANSAmed) - Rome, January 3 - Outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti hit back on Thursday after being accused of lacking credibility by his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi. "Berlusconi has been volatile in both his personal and political affairs recently," Monti, who is standing to retain office on a reform platform in next month's general elections, told Rai television.

Berlusconi has alternated of late between furious criticism of Monti and praise for the former European commissioner. Last month Berlusconi offered to withdraw his bid for a fourth term as premier if Monti agreed to lead a broad centre-right coalition at the elections. On Wednesday, however, he accused Monti of breaking a vow not to enter the political fray that when he was appointed premier in November 2011 after Berlusconi's was forced to resign as prime minister by Italy's debt crisis.

"Monti does not have credibility any more," Berlusconi said.

"He was put at the head of a technocrat government with a promise - he said he would not take advantage of the promotion".

Berlusconi has also accused Monti's emergency government of unelected technocrats of being too "German-centric" in pursuing austerity policies.

Monti added that his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party was increasingly adopting extreme positions on economic affairs. Monti blamed the new direction on former civil service minister Renato Brunetta, an academic, economist and a senior PdL spokesman on economic affairs. "From the point of view of the general economy, Brunetta is taking the PdL to extreme, sectarian positions with the authoritativeness of a professor and a certain academic stature," Monti told Rai television. The PdL has recently become highly critical of the austerity policies Monti's emergency technocrat government adopted to steer Italy out of the centre of the eurozone crisis after taking power in November 2011. Monti also called on Thursday on the Democratic Party (PD) to silence the anti-reform elements within its ranks and hinted that an alliance with the centre-left party may be possible if next month's general elections do not produce a clear winner. "(PD leader Pier Luigi) Bersani should be brave and silence the conservative part of his party a little," Monti told Rai television. Monti said his government's attempts to introduce structural economic reforms had been hampered by opposition from Italy's biggest trade union confederation, the left-wing CGIL, and from Stefano Fassina, the PD spokesman on economic affairs. He also mentioned the left-wing SEL party, with which the PD has formed an electoral alliance. Monti suggested that he might be able to govern with the PD after the elections if the centre-left party dropped its coalition with the SEL. "Cutting off the (extreme) wings is a good thing," Monti said when asked about a possible post-election pact with Bersani. "The real contest is between those who want to conserve existing structures and those who want to innovate a little more".

The former European commissioner said a possible name for his election platform could be Con Monti per l'Italia (With Monti for Italy). He added that he hoped Bersani will present convincing arguments in election campaign but still lose. Monti also hit back at Fassina's claim that he would be at the helm of a list of elitist "Rotary Club" candidates. "I don't know what the Monti list will be yet. Anyway I've always fought against lobbies," Monti said. (ANSAmed).

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