Italy's Monti: I'm heading new electoral coalition
His range of supporters is impressive. They include the president of Ferrari's Formula One racing team as well as figures in the highest Vatican echelons. Pope Benedict XVI on Christmas Day issued a call for noble values in politics that was read as a virtual endorsement for another Monti term.
But it remains to be seen if Monti's high-minded reformist alliance will garner enough backing to allow him to call the shots after the elections. Recent polls have shown that such a grouping, with Monti at the helm, would garner at most about 15 percent of the vote.
Opinion surveys show that the leading party, with about 30 percent, is the Democratic Left led by Pier Luigi Bersani, who was Monti's biggest backer in Parliament, including supporting him on pension reforms that sorely tested the left's traditional support from labor.
Berlusconi, meanwhile, hasn't said if he is running or not for a fourth term as premier. He faces legal and sexual scandals, yet still commands significant support.
After Monti's news conference, Bersani challenged the premier to clarify the new coalition's relationship with his party, the "first party. Do they see us as alternatives, competitors or are they open to an alliance?" Bersani said in a TV interview.
Reporters asked Monti if he thought he could return to the premier's office if the election results show his coalition ends up second. "Let's wait and see," was his reply.
Monti said that, thanks to his stewardship, "the financial emergency is over" in Italy but acknowledged that youth unemployment and lack of economic growth still plague the country. He said voters would have the chance in February to "legitimize" his economic and moral reform platform.
Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.