Monti has ‘near-impossible’ task but Berlusconi crows for spring poll

Italian prime minister Mario Monti has won the backing of parliament and promised to lead his country out of its economic nightmare.

Mr Monti, 68, secured 556 votes in the lower house, with the 61 opponents coming from the Northern League and Alessandra Mussolini, grand daughter of Fascist dictator Benito, who are both critical of his technocrat government made up of academics, bankers and diplomats.

Yesterday’s backing came just hours after the former European commissioner had secured a majority in the senate – the highest in Italian history.

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However, before yesterday’s vote, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi hinted that although he has given Mr Monti his full backing it was only temporary and he was ready to call elections in the spring.

“I know you want me to retire and write my memoirs but I’m not going to do that. We need to have an election quickly because at the moment democracy has been suspended,” he said.

Mr Monti told parliament he hoped to outline his reforms over the next few days and added that he would see out his term until May 2013. He said: “Our task is almost impossible but we shall succeed. I know this crisis we are faced with is down to the vices of the markets and financial institutions, but we can make it through.

“We will have to make some unpleasant decisions which Italians will have to put up with.”