Dec 24, 2012, 08.23 AM | Source: PTI
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti resigned with his political plans still in doubt, paving the way for early elections next year in a lynchpin eurozone state still mired in recession.
Monti "handed in the resignation of his government" at a meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano, and will stay on in a caretaker capacity, the presidency said in a statement. Napolitano will hold consultations tomorrow with parliamentary leaders before dissolving the two chambers and calling a general election which most observers expected on February 24.
In his last speech as premier, Monti said that his stormy 13 months in government had been "difficult but fascinating" and voiced hope that his reform agenda will be continued by any new leader. Italy was now "more reliable" on the international stage, he said. The former European commissioner joked to government colleagues earlier in the day that the fall of his government was "not the fault of the Mayas", referring to the end of a Mayan calendar which many believe foretold the end of the world today.
The 69-year-old has won praise at home and abroad for rescuing Italy from the brink of bankruptcy, launching long-delayed pension and labour market reforms and joining other eurozone leaders in battling the debt crisis. Monti announced he would step down earlier this month after his flamboyant predecessor Silvio Berlusconi withdrew his party's support for Monti's government in parliament and announced he would run for a fourth term as prime minister.