ROME Dec 17 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
rigour," 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
programmes ahead of the election.
He 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
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 labour market reform.
But a poll by the SWG institute on Monday showed 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.
Silvio Berlusconi, who is seeking his fifth term as prime
minister, reaffirmed on Monday that he would reverse some of
Monti's policies if he wins the elections, and would eliminate
an unpopular housing tax as one of his first steps.
"We are in a very serious situation, because of the
austerity regime that has been imposed on Mediterranean
countries by Europe, where Germany played the role of
hegemonist," he told his own Rete 4 television channel.
"We have had too many taxes, too many tax increases. We have
to get the economy going again, and to do that we need to reduce
the tax burden on businesses," he said.
Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom party has about
16.5 percent of electoral support, SWG's poll showed, compared
to 31 percent for the centre-left Democratic Party and 19
percent for the populist 5-Star Movement.