Italy president says next government must bring reforms

ROME Mon Dec 17, 2012 12:50pm EST

Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano arrives at the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice September 6, 2012. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri

Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano arrives at the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice September 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Manuel Silvestri

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ROME (Reuters) - Whichever party wins Italy's next election must make wide-ranging reforms after opportunities were wasted during the turbulent legislative period now drawing to an end, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said on Monday.

"Five years is enough time for the next government" to undertake a series of needed reforms "during a season of budget rigor," Napolitano said during an address to the highest institutional figures, including Prime Minister Mario Monti.

Napolitano said he was "bitter and worried" that Italy's political parties had not learned to compromise in the interest of the country even after 13 months of the technocrat Monti government and that he expected each one to outline credible programs ahead of the election.

Monti has said he will resign once Italy passes the 2013 budget law -- expected by the end of this week -- and his government will stay on in a caretaker capacity until the national vote, which will probably be held in February.

The former European Commissioner is under international pressure to stand in the election so he can continue his policy agenda which has so far included an overhaul of the pension system, deregulation and labor market reform.

But a poll showed on Monday that 61 percent of Italians are against Monti running for a second term, with approval ratings sinking to almost their lowest level since he came to power.

Napolitano said it was important that the next government helped maintain stability and continuity by keeping Italy on the reform path pursued by Monti, which is aimed at defusing a debt crisis that threatens the euro zone.

The president said parliament's failure to reform an unpopular electoral law was "unforgivably serious". Lawmakers had been arguing for months over the law, which allows party leaders to hand-pick members of parliament.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and Catherine Hornby; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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