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Politics

Italian Prime Minister Monti resigns

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has resigned. The move paves the way for early elections, expected to be held in late February. His future political plans remain unclear.

Mario Monti formally handed in his resignation to President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday evening. The prime minister had announced his intention to step down earlier this month, but had delayed the move until parliament approved the 2013 budget, which legislators did shortly before he met with the president.

President Napolitano is expected to dissolve parliament in the next few days. A statement released by the president’s office said he had asked Monti to stay on as premier for the time being in a caretaker capacity, and that he would hold consultations with political leaders on Saturday to discuss further steps ahead of snap elections. February 24 has been mentioned as a possible date for the polls.

Monti, a former European commissioner, was appointed as the head of a technocrat government at the height of Italy’s financial crisis in November 2011. During his 13 months in office, Monti introduced a series of austerity measures and tax increases aimed at reining in Italy’s budgetary deficit.

Controversial austerity program

Although unpopular with many at home, Monti’s austerity program has been praised by others in the EU, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

However, he has also has his critics, most notably his predecessor and possible successor as premier, Silvio Berlusconi, who argue his austerity measures have pushed the country into recession. In an interview with Italian public broadcaster RAI earlier this month, Monti defended the cuts as unavoidable.

"I would be happy to find out from somebody how it would have been possible to financially rescue Italy from a Greek destiny and [also] make it grow quickly: it would have been nice if that recipe had been found a few years ago," Monti said.

Monti first announced his plans to step down earlier this month after Berlusconi’s center-right People of Freedom Party withdrew its support for his government. He has not yet said whether he intends to run in the upcoming election, but is expected to announce his future plans at a press conference on Sunday.

pfd/dr (Reuters, dpa, AP)