ROME Dec 16 Italian centre-right leaders increased pressure on Prime Minister Mario Monti on Sunday to run for a second term in coming elections as the leader of a broad alliance of moderates.
"These could be once-off circumstances," said Angelino Alfano, secretary of the centre-right People of Liberty (PDL) of former premier Silvio Berlusconi. "We are moderates who want to unite to prevent a win by the left."
His speech at a Rome centre-right conference appealed to supporters to back Monti as the best way to continue reforms, meant to defuse a debt crisis dangerous to the euro zone, and avoid a win by the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).
The PD now commands the largest chunk of voter support at 31 percent, compared to 16.5 percent for the PDL, according to pollsters SWG.
But support for Monti is far from universal in the highly-fragmented centre-right, which includes his most entrenched critics, the Northern League, who were necessary coalition partners in the last centre-right government.
Berlusconi, who addressed the conference by video, last week announced he would withdraw as an election candidate if Monti were to run, in an apparent about-face shortly after his party withdrew support from the technocratic government.
The PDL's unexpected decision forced Monti to announce his early resignation and brought forward elections to February from March.
According to a poll published on Sunday by the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, a Monti candidacy has more support among PD than PDL voters, even though the former has repeatedly said Monti should not run as a candidate.
The poll showed 44 percent of PD voters thought a Monti run would be good, versus 50 percent who thought it would be a bad thing. This compared to 19 percent support for the technocrat prime minister among voters for Berlusconi's party, versus 78 percent who thought a Monti run would be negative.
The PD has expressed support for Monti continuing in some role after the election, possibly as president, as the current President Giorgio Napolitano is due to step down in May.
There is another possibility that Monti could run to lead a an alliance of centrists and the business community now headed by the president of carmaker Ferrari, Luca di Montezemolo.
Monti would significantly broaden support for the centrist group if he ran as its leader, increasing votes to 15.1 percent from 9.3 percent, according to pollsters SWG.
The former chairman of Assicurazioni Generali and once a powerful business leader, Cesare Geronzi, urged Monti on Sunday to announce his decision.
"I would rate him better if he shook off this reserve about his candidacy. The country is dying of uncertainty," Geronzi said in a television interview.
Napolitano, who met with Monti earlier on Sunday, said that the premier would announce his decision himself when questioned about it by reporters, but did not indicate when that would be. (Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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