Italy's Monti fires opening salvo of 2nd-term bid
By Steve Scherer, ReutersROME--Italy's outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti pledged to cut labor taxes to fuel growth on Wednesday as he shed his neutral technocrat stance and fired the opening salvo of his campaign for a second term.
January 3, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
The former European Commissioner was appointed in November 2011 to lead an unelected right-left government of experts to save Italy from financial crisis after Silvio Berlusconi quit.
Berlusconi's party withdrew its support for Monti in December, and Monti resigned on Dec. 21, about two months earlier than had been planned.
On Friday Monti abandoned his mediator role to enter politics in his own right and lead a centrist alliance to fight the Feb. 24-25 parliamentary vote.
The 69-year-old's bloc is now in a three-way race with the Democratic Party (PD) on the left and four-time Prime Minister Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) on the right.
Initial polls suggest Monti's bloc could gain up to 16 percent of the vote, depriving rivals of a clear win, but not enough to govern.
They show the PD and its coalition ally are on track to win the vote, at least in the lower house. Monti repeated on Wednesday that he wanted to form a broad coalition of pro-Europe, pro-reform parties after the election.
To Italians who have borne the brunt of austerity measures he introduced in late 2011 to save Italy from a Greek-style debt crisis, Monti promised to lower labor taxes and “redistribute” wealth from the richest to the poorest if he wins.
“We need to reduce taxes on the labor force, both on workers and companies, by cutting spending,” he said in an hourlong interview with state radio.
Monti again ridiculed Berlusconi, saying he was personally “confounded” by his “illogical” swings from praising his government to attacking it.
“I hope voters are less confused than I am,” he said. The 76-year-old Berlusconi has attacked Monti, saying he took orders from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while at the same time offering him the leadership of the center-right.
For the first time, Monti also directly attacked the center-left, saying Pier Luigi Bersani's PD and its SEL ally were too close to labor union positions aimed at protecting jobs and not creating new ones.