OME: Italy will go to the polls in February, officials said Saturday, amid uncertainty over whether Prime Minister Mario Monti will enter the political fray and fight flamboyant billionaire Silvio Berlusconi for the top job.
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 election, either as a candidate or a figurehead for centrist parties that pledge to continue his reforms.
"On the eve of the most important decision of his political life, the
premier hesitates on the threshold. He's gripped by doubts, he's tormented," the left-wing Repubblica daily said, reflecting a flurry of press headlines over Monti's apparent indecision.
The unelected 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.
He is expected to announce Sunday whether he will join the race. Sources close to the premier said that he had discussed his road map with President Giorgio Napolitano on Saturday, but was keeping the country on tenterhooks.
"I am thinking things over. I have neither said yes nor no" to running in the campaign, he was quoted as saying by Italian media.
Napolitano dissolved parliament on Saturday, formally paving the way for the election and called for "a measured and constructive electoral campaign".
Italy's cabinet announced that the election would take place February 24-25.