Berlusconi claims allies are pressing him to seek election again, hoping that Monti’s painful austerity measures will win votes for the center-right.
Economic Development Minister Corrado Passera angered Berlusconi supporters by saying that it would not be good for Italy’s image abroad ‘‘to go back.’’
‘‘We need to give the sensation that the country is moving ahead,’’ Passera said on RAI state-run television.
Besides showing poorly in the polls, Berlusconi also is appealing an October tax fraud conviction and awaiting a verdict in the coming weeks in his trial on charges of having sex with an underage woman and using his office to cover it up. He says he is innocent.
Leading the polls at present is the center-left Democratic Party, led by party secretary Pier Luigi Bersani who won his party’s nomination in a two-weekend primary that reinvigorated the left.
While some smaller centrist parties have signaled that they would welcome another Monti term, Bersani has been particularly adamant that it is time for elected politicians to take over.
He called the center-right’s tactics ‘‘irresponsible’’ and reaffirmed his party’s loyalty and support of the Monti government during the present legislature.
Barry reported from Milan. Frances D'Emilio contributed from Rome.