Monti urges debate on Italy election as rivals open fire

Mon Dec 24, 2012 8:25am EST

Related Topics

* Monti posts reform agenda online

* Urges "open reflection" and debate

* Berlusconi says Monti candidacy "immoral"

* Centrists hope for "enormous" bonus from Monti backing

By James Mackenzie

ROME, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti posted his reform agenda online on Monday, urging Italians to join a debate on their country's future as potentially bitter election campaign gets underway two months before Italy goes to polls.

Following weeks of hesitation, Monti declared his availability on Sunday to lead a reform-minded centrist alliance to seek a second term to complete the economic reform programme begun when he took office just over a year ago.

The former European Commissioner, appointed at the head of a technocrat government to save Italy from financial crisis, has now thrown off his mantle of neutrality and entered a race that will be dominated by his tough reform agenda.

Even if he confirms his entry into the campaign, Monti appears unlikely at this stage to return to office but his involvement could strengthen a centrist alliance and help shape the agenda of the next government.

The centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which has pledged to maintain Monti's broad reform course while giving more help to workers and pensioners and emphasising growth more, is favoured to win but may have to strike a coalition deal with the centre.

In an open letter to Italians posted online and accompanied by a 25-page policy programme, Monti said he hoped that the agenda would lead to an "open reflection" that would help shape the debate ahead of the election on Feb. 24-25.

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