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Monti clings to power as Berlusconi's party goes on the attack

Berlusconi’s supporters are arguing that Italy is economically far worse off than before.

File image of Monti and Berlusconi.
File image of Monti and Berlusconi.
Image: (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

PRIME MINISTER MARIO Monti’s government hung by a thread today as Silvio Berlusconi prepared to return to the fray, with his supporters arguing that Italy was economically now far worse off than before.

“We believe the experience of the Monti government is over,” Angelino Alfano, leader of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PDL) party, told parliament.

But he added that the PDL wanted an “orderly conclusion” to the legislature, meaning that the party will not try to bring down the government.

PDL lawmakers yesterday abstained from confidence votes in the government in protest at Monti’s policies, but stopped short of bringing down the executive they have supported until now.

“Public debt has risen, there is no development strategy, GDP has gone down, industrial production has plunged, unemployment has gone up, taxes have gone up, the construction sector and the property market have collapsed,” Alfano said.

Run for office

Alfano said Berlusconi would run for office again although the 76-year-old three-time prime minister himself has made no announcement.

It would be his sixth bid to become prime minister in two decades of political life for the billionaire media tycoon.

“I am being assailed by requests to return to the field as soon as possible,” Berlusconi said in a statement on Wednesday after meeting party leaders.

Far worse

“Italy today is on the edge of a cliff. I cannot allow this,” he said, adding: “The situation now is far worse than when I left office last year.”

“The government in any case is coming to the end of its mandate and they only have to approve the budget, which will have to be done by Christmas. All the parties have agreed to do it,” Stefano Folli, a columnist for the Il Sole 24 Ore business daily said.

President Giorgio Napolitano has also sought to reassure the public, saying these were only “pre-election tensions” ahead of a general election expected to be held in March or April next year.

A poll by the SWG Institute today gave Berlusconi’s PDL just 13.8 per cent of the vote, compared to the 38 per cent it won in the last general election in 2008.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: Italy protesters stage anti-austerity ‘No Monti Day’ >

Read: Update: Berlusconi’s jail term cut to one year thanks to amnesty law >

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