Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti
Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti announced on Sunday he would consider seeking a second term if he is asked by a political force that backs his reform agenda and launched a sharp attack on his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi.
The former European commissioner, appointed to lead an unelected government to save Italy from financial crisis a year ago, resigned on Friday but had faced growing calls to seek a second term at the election on February 24-25, reports Reuters.
He had kept his position a closely guarded secret for weeks and in recent days had appeared to be have strong doubts about whether to continue in front-line politics.
Monti, who remains in office as caretaker prime minister, said he would be prepared to consider approaches to serve again from reform-minded centrist groups although he held back from committing himself fully to the race.
As a Senator for Life, Monti has no need to run for election to parliament but he said he would publish a detailed agenda of recommendations for a future government and would potentially be willing to lead a party that adopted it as its own.
"If a credible political force asked me to be candidate as prime minister for them, I would consider it," he told an end of year news conference, adding that he was aware the decision carried "many risks and a high probability of failure".
Monti is widely respected for restoring Italy's reputation after the scandal-plagued Berlusconi era but there is little sign of enthusiasm for a renewed term among voters weary of repeated tax hikes and spending cuts.
An economics professor backed strongly by Italy's business establishment, he has been urged to consider another term by centrist groups ranging from disaffected former Berlusconi allies to the small UDC party, which is close to the Catholic church.
However he did not explicitly endorse the centrists, who also include a new formation led by Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, saying that a true civic movement for reform "had to be much more broad".
"I am not in any party. I am ready to give my appreciation and encouragement, to be leader and to take on any responsibility I may be given by parliament," he said.
Both Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which is leading in the opinion polls, have urged him not to stand in the election.
He said he hoped the next government would have a strong majority to pursue a program that would extend the reforms his government had begun in areas ranging from the labor market to justice and cutting the bloated cost of the political system.
But a survey last week showed 61 percent did not think he should stand, with a potential centrist alliance under his leadership likely to gain around 15 percent support.