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Italy's Monti calls for "radical reforms" in campaign launch
January 20, 2013 / 7:46 PM / 5 years ago

Italy's Monti calls for "radical reforms" in campaign launch

Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti attends at the presentation of "La Democrazia in Europa" the book he wrote with Euro-MP Sylvie Goulard in Rome, January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti launched his campaign for a second term on Sunday with a speech calling for deep-rooted reforms to kick start economic growth, four weeks ahead of a parliamentary election.

“Italy needs radical reforms. Radical reforms for those who are outside protected interest groups, and for young people who cannot find work because others are over-protected,” the economist said at the launch of his campaign for the February 24-25 vote.

In an interview with the premier on Sunday, daily Corriere della Sera said Monti planned to try to modify a labor reform that was watered down during a lengthy passage through parliament last year. [ID:nL5E8NR7VC] Monti said only that nothing had been decided.

In his speech Monti said he would push for a “drastic reduction” of the number of parliamentarians and a rearrangement of the Italian state to make it “less onerous”. Such reforms have long had broad cross-party support, but have stalled in parliament.

The head of a technocrat government appointed in November 2011 to rescue Italy from a Greek-style meltdown with austerity and reforms, Monti said he would stick to cutting the country’s debt burden but that Italians could look forward to a gradual reduction in taxes.

The promise came after a week in which support for the center-right party of rival Silvio Berlusconi rose two points to 17.7 percent according to a Friday poll by SWG. Berlusconi repeatedly promised to abolish a much-hated property tax introduced by Monti to mend Italian public finances.

The event in the northern steel-making town of Dalmine sought to present the sober economics professor as the man who could re-establish Italy as a competitive manufacturing country after years of economic stagnation.

Yet with just 13.7 percent of the vote according to the SWG poll, Monti’s centrist movement will likely need to join a coalition in order to be part of the next government.

A possible partner is the center-left coalition led by Democratic leader Pier Luigi Bersani, which has 33 percent support.

However, a deep recession, high unemployment and disgust at a political class marred by years of scandals is also driving support for the anti-establishment 5 Star movement of comedian Beppe Grillo, which is now Italy’s third largest party but has yet to be tested in parliament.

Founded in 2009, the citizens’ movement proved itself a force to be reckoned with when it emerged as the single largest party in regional elections in Sicily in October, seen as a possible precursor to the February vote.

Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Myra MacDonald

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