I want the unity of [Italian] moderates, and in order to achieve it, if necessary, I'm even ready not to run [in next year's elections].
What's strange about it? I intend to do what's good and useful to my country and...if I need to step aside, I'll do it.
There's no trick or room for second thoughts.In other words, Il Cavaliere's well-known (albeit slightly anachronistic) obsessive fear of 'leaving the country in the Communists' hands' seems to have prevailed in the end. But this was by far the most interesting part of the interview,
I wouldn't rule out [Italian Prime Minister] Mario Monti as the leader of this moderate front. Monti has always moved within this political area.Berlusconi is clearly not averse to U-turns - but, as we pointed out on this blog before, he is also a seasoned politician. Now, the latest opinion polls have all signalled that his party is in a free fall, as it would win only 15% of votes if elections were to take place now. However, the same opinion polls also show that centre-left Democratic Party only commands around 25% of support.
With comedian Beppe Grillo's Five-Star Movement consistently polling at around 20% and consistently ruling out post-election alliances with the 'old political establishment', Italy's two mainstream parties may ultimately have to go for some sort of German-style 'grand coalition' (possibly including a couple of smaller, pro-reform centre parties) if they want to achieve a sufficient majority - which, incidentally, now appears to be the only chance for Berlusconi's party to stay in government after the elections.
If confirmed, Berlusconi's decision not to stand in next year's election would therefore clear what would, otherwise, arguably be the main obstacle to such a solution. And Monti? Well, he is clearly not keen to stand in the elections - not least because that would involve picking up a political party to back his candidacy.
However, under Italian law, it is the Italian President who is responsible for tasking someone with forming the new government - and the person does not necessarily have to be the leader of one of the political parties that contested the elections. Therefore, if Italian party leaders converge on a second mandate for Monti, he may have to follow up on his pledge to "be there" for Italy, if the country's political forces ask him to stay on.