With financial markets rattled over the prospect that Monti might see his tenure in the premiership end before May if early elections are called, the premier insisted that the political crisis was "manageable." Monti contended his government, with its austerity agenda of spending cuts, higher taxes and pension reform, spared Italy — and with it, other nations in the eurozone — from succumbing to financial disaster.
Standard & Poor's rating agency on Friday indicated it could lower Italy's rating if the recession endures well into 2013, and it cited "uncertainty" the next Italian government can stay the tough course of austerity Monti's nonpartisan government managed to move through Parliament, thanks to the wide support.
Berlusconi declared "the campaign is already on" and insisted he's running "out of a sense of responsibility" toward recession-plagued Italy. For months, he had been coy about whether he would run again. But on Saturday he claimed that a search for a new leader, like the one he was when he burst into politics in the early 1990s, failed, and so "out of desperation" for lack of alternative, he was jumping into the race.
Italian media have reported that Berlusconi was particularly irked by Monti's Cabinet approval, earlier in the week, of a measure that would ban from running for office anyone sentenced to more than two years in prison after convictions are definitely upheld in cases of terrorism, organized crime and offenses in public office, including corruption.
Berlusconi's tax fraud conviction in October carries a four-year sentence, but the case could be dismissed if the statute of limitations runs out before all appeals are exhausted.
Critics have contended that Berlusconi expended much of his efforts as premier to push through legislation tailor-made to help him in his legal woes, and any new term in the premier's office could offer a similar opportunity.
Since his last election bid, in 2008, Berlusconi has lost the key support of its biggest coalition partner, the Northern League, which refused to support Monti's government. But the League, whose founder, Umberto Bossi, has been tarnished by scandal, hasn't ruled out forging a new election alliance with Berlusconi.