Monti unveils election slogan, sets candidate rules

ROME (AFP) - Italy's outgoing prime minister Mario Monti on Friday unveiled the slogan of his centrist coalition for early elections in February and said there would be strict rules on eligibility for candidates.

The slogan "With Monti for Italy" accompanied by the colours of the Italian flag will be the symbol for a unified candidate list for the Senate and for a list for the Chamber of Deputies that will be in coalition with two small centrist parties.

"The criteria for eligibility for candidates will be stricter than under current legislation and will include conflict of interests, anti-mafia, past convictions and pending investigations," Mr Monti said.

He said there would also be limits on career politicians and many civil society representatives among the candidates in his coalition.

"This is a new offer in politics ... for a better politics," he told a news conference.

Italy's current parliament has several lawmakers with criminal convictions including Silvio Berlusconi, who was sentenced for fraud last year.

A series of scandals over parliamentary expenses, corruption and inflated salaries have badly dented Italians' trust in their elected representatives.

Mr Monti also said members of both the main centre-right and centre-left parties would join his coalition, without elaborating.

Former foreign minister Franco Frattini has publicly broken with Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party and signalled his allegiance to Mr Monti.

A poll released earlier on Thursday, however, showed Mr Monti's coalition trailing in fourth place behind the centre-left Democratic Party, the centre-right People of Freedom and blogger Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement.

Italians head to the polls on Feb 24 to Feb 25.

A former top European commissioner and economics professor, Mr Monti was installed in power in November 2011 after Mr Berlusconi was forced to resign by a parliamentary revolt and panic on financial markets.

He was voted in by parliament as head of an unelected, technocratic government charged with rescuing Italy from impending financial ruin.

After Mr Berlusconi's party withdrew its support for him in parliament last month, Mr Monti said he would lead a coalition to continue his liberal economic reforms and defend Italy's newfound international credibility.