Berlusconi Back With a Bang and Attack on Monti

English: Silvio Berlusconi in a meeting with J...

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi launched a scathing on his successor Mario Monti,  just three days after announcing that he will contest the elections due to be held in February and seek to become prime minister for the fourth time.

Mario Monti warned against a slide into populism on Tuesday as Silvio Berlusconi attacked his technocrat government, accusing it of failed “Germano-centric” policies that had dragged Italy into recession

Mario Monti had announced that he would resign as Prime Minister once the 2013 budget was passed, potentially bringing forward next year’s Italian election and leaving in question many of his unfinished reforms. Monti announced his intention to resign on Saturday, after losing the support of Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party.

Monti’s appointment to the role of Prime Minister as an unelected technocrat made him a controversial figure, and while imposing austerity measures mandated by the European Central Bank (ECB) has been made easier by his ability to disregard citizens’ anxieties, his lack of accountability has also helped inflame popular discontent.

Berlusconi, the 76-year-old media billionaire laid into Monti’s technocrat government, which he said had accepted failed policies dictated from Berlin.

“The Monti government has followed the Germano-centric policies which Europe has tried to impose on other states and it has created a crisis situation much worse than where we were when we were in government,” Berlusconi said in an interview on his own Canale 5 television network.

He dismissed the sharp drop on financial markets which followed news of his return, saying the main gauge of investor trust in Italy, the spread between Italian bonds and their safer German counterparts, was “a con”.

 

He also accused Germany of deliberately speculating on the euro zone debt crisis to favor its banks and drive down its own borrowing costs. He claimed that before being forced to resign last November, he had saved Italy from going the way of Greece. He also accused Mr Monti of kowtowing to Germany by bringing in an austerity drive and budget cuts to tame Italy’s massive national debt and calm international markets.

Berlusconi’s remarks prompted a sharp response from Berlin, where German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that it was unacceptable “for Germany to be made the target of a populist election campaign.”

Berlusconi’s vicious campaigning is directly related to his need to attract votes he has lost, including Italians who now back anti-EU activist and comedian Beppe Grillo. Berlusconi must also reforge an alliance with the Northern League party, which fiercely opposed the Monti government. His attacks on austerity may even attract some supporters of Pier Luigi Bersani, the centre-left leader now top of the polls, who has stood by Monti.

Berlusconi’s return to centre stage and Monti’s announced resignation have almost certainly scuttled attempts to reform a much maligned electoral law known popularly as the “pigsty”.

Berlusconi wanted to keep the law partly because it imposes fixed lists where party leaders rather than the electorate choose members of parliament, ensuring he maintains his power of patronage and control.

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