The Straits Times
Published on Dec 22, 2012

Italy election campaign kicks off amid Monti speculation


ROME (AFP) - Italy's election campaign kicked off on Saturday amid uncertainty over whether Prime Minister Mario Monti will launch himself into the political fray and fight billionaire Silvio Berlusconi for the top job.

Mr Monti's resignation on Friday brought to a head weeks of speculation over whether the former eurocrat will play a major role in the February elections, either as a candidate or a figurehead for parties that pledge to continue his reforms.

"On the eve of the most important decision of his political life, the premier halts on the threshold. He's gripped by doubts, he's tormented," the Repubblica daily said, reflecting a slurry of headlines in the national press over Mr Monti's apparent indecision.

The unelected Mr Monti, appointed to head up a technocrat government last year as Italy battled the debt crisis, has kept his cards close to his chest, appearing reluctant to dive into the rough-and-tumble of Italian electoral politics. But he is expected to announce Sunday whether he will join the race.