* Monti to hold news conference at 1000 GMT
* Expected to present memorandum of reforms Italy needs
* Seems doubtful over taking more active role in Feb. 24
By Gavin Jones and James Mackenzie
ROME, Dec 23 Italian caretaker Prime Minister
Mario Monti is expected to end weeks of speculation about his
political future on Sunday when he reveals the role he plans to
play in February's national election.
The former European commissioner, appointed to lead an
unelected government to save Italy from financial crisis a year
ago, has faced calls to seek a second term at the election on
Feb. 24-25, but his doubts appear to be growing.
Monti, aware of both the potential risks as well as the
opportunities of running in what is likely to be a bitter and
messy campaign, will hold a news conference at 1000 GMT.
He could either announce his candidacy directly, endorse a
centrist alliance to run in his name, or simply set out a policy
agenda in the hope that one or more of the coalitions running in
the election will adopt it as their own.
Earlier this week, Italian media were reporting that one of
the first two options was probable. But political sources say
Monti has been put off by discouraging opinion polls and may not
take a front-line role, at least for now.
"On Sunday he will probably only present a policy
memorandum, there is unlikely to be any decision on any more
direct involvement in the campaign until after Christmas," said
one person familiar with the discussions that have been going on
between Monti and centrist groups.
While numerous European leaders and Italy's business elite
have called for his economic agenda to continue, ordinary
Italians, weary of tax hikes and spending cuts, are less
A centrist group headed by him would probably come a distant
third or even fourth in the Feb. 24 election, expected to be won
by Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left Democratic party (PD). One
survey published this week showed 61 percent saying he should
Both the PD and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's
centre-right People of Freedom party (PDL) insist Monti should
stay out of the race, and if he runs he would face attacks from
both sides of the political divide.
If Monti merely sets out policies, then it would then be up
to the parties to sign up to them or reject them, and he would
still be free to step into the fray later on, depending on
During his 13 months in office the former economics
professor repaired Italy's international standing after the
discredited Berlusconi, and passed reforms of the pension
system, the labour market and parts of the service sector.
However, many analysts said his reform efforts were too
timid to significantly improve the outlook of a chronically
sluggish economy, and Monti himself said on Thursday that Italy
was "only at the beginning of the structural reforms" required.
Italy, the euro zone's third-largest economy, has been in
recession since the middle of last year, consumer spending is
falling at its fastest rate since World War Two and unemployment
has risen to a record high above 11 percent.
Output is set to contract by more than 2 percent this year
and post another, smaller fall in 2013. Despite Monti's
austerity the public debt topped 2 trillion euros for the first
time in October and is forecast to keep climbing through 2013.