MILAN The political movement founded by Ferrari's chairman held its first meeting in Italy's wealthy Lombardy region on Thursday, extending its footprint as it gears up to contest national elections in 2013.
The question of who will run Italy after Prime Minister Mario Monti steps down came sharply into focus this week when Monti repeated he would not run and ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party indicated the billionaire businessman would.
Opinion polls point to a victory for the center left, but with ample space for other groupings to grab votes.
Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo founded Italia Futura as a think tank in 2009, but decided in late 2011 to transform it into a national movement that could field political candidates in the 2013 election.
"Our goals are twofold: to generate content that can be debated in a national election, and to find people to build a new political class to run for office," said the party's organizing coordinator for Lombardy, Nicolo' Bastianini.
Italy's fragmented party landscape and turbulent political climate makes it extremely difficult to predict the outcome of next year's elections, increasing the uncertainty for nervous financial markets and Italy's European partners.
Italia Futura has extended its network across Piedmont, Veneto and Tuscany. Setting up shop in Lombardy, Italy's largest and wealthiest region, is a key step for the group's reach and credibility. Offices in Lazio and Sicily, Italy's second- and third-largest regions, are yet to come.
Bastianini said the Milan meeting was the first time the 250 people organizing the Lombardy branches had met each other and national coordinator Federico Vecchioni.
Speculation about Luca Cordero di Montezemolo's political future has heated up since traditional parties lost ground to new groups like Beppe Grillo's Cinque Stelle in local elections in May, part of broader protests against the economic crisis.
The Ferrari chairman does not plan to run for election when Italians go to the polls early next year, but told Reuters last month he would promote candidates from Italia Futura to voters disillusioned with mainstream political parties.
(Reporting by Jennifer Clark, editing by Tim Pearce)