Mario Monti, who resigned as Italy’s prime minister on Friday, has said he is ready to govern the country again as head of a pro-reform coalition in favour of change in Italy and Europe.
However, he rejected Silvio Berlusconi’s offer to lead the centre-right in next year’s election, leaving himself open to offers from other parties.
In a lengthy press conference on Sunday, his last as caretaker prime minister, Monti spoke out against Berlusconi’s style of politics, saying he was “not in favour of parties based on personalities”.
“I am perplexed by my predecessor,” said Monti, referring to Berlusconi, who has been Italian prime minister three times and resigned in November 2011 after losing his parliamentary majority. “I find it difficult to follow his line of thought.”
Berlusconi, a career populist and media tycoon, has frequently swung wildly between supporting Monti’s technocrat administration and attacking him.
The 76-year-old politician, who recently announced his engagement to a woman 49 years his junior, revealed his intention to once more stand in elections, prompting the People of Freedom party he founded to withdraw its support for Monti’s coalition, forcing a move towards a new poll.
“Laws should be made for the nation, not for single individuals,” said Monti in what appeared as a thinly veiled attack against Berlusconi.
Monti used the occasion to launch a manifesto for economic growth that he urged the next Italian leader to follow.
Dubbed “Changing Italy, reforming Europe”, the platform called for leaders to continue the economic austerity measures imposed by Monti’s administration, and to engage actively with the European Union.
“If a credible political force asked me to run as prime minister for them, I would consider it“
– Mario Monti
Monti cannot officially be on the ballot for the February 24-25 vote as he is already a senator-for-life but under Italy’s electoral system he could be asked to join the government, even as prime minister, by whoever wins.
But Monti did not rule out standing for election himself. If a political group adopted his plan, “I would be ready to offer my encouragement, advice and if necessary leadership,” he said.
“If a credible political force asked me to run as prime minister for them, I would consider it.”
Praising the idea of “radical centrism” to tackle inequality without hurting economic growth, Monti quoted EU founding father Alcide De Gasperi, saying: “Politicians look at the next election. Statesmen look at the next generations”.
He also called for a reshaping in the way the country values women as a cornerstone of change, saying Italy often had “an embarrassing attitude” towards women.
Monti, a 69-year-old economics professor and former EU commissioner, was appointed by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to form a technocrat government in the midst of the European sovereign debt crisis.
The appointment followed Berlusconi’s resignation from the post, after a period in office dogged by sex scandal allegations.
In October 2012, Berlusconi was found guilty of tax evasion and was banned from holding public office, though he is expected to appeal against the decision.