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    Italy’s prime minister steps down

    Monti is an economist has helped restore Italy’s international credibility but suffered politically for championing a series of tax increases and budget cuts.
    REUTERS
    Monti is an economist who has helped restore Italy’s international credibility but has suffered politically for championing a series of tax increases and budget cuts.

    ROME — Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti resigned Friday evening following Parliament’s confidence vote on the 2013 budget, but he is still expected to play a major role in early elections, quite possibly as a candidate, analysts said.

    At a news conference scheduled for Sunday, Monti is expected to present a political agenda — pro-Europe, pro-reform, pro-fiscal rigor — and urge all parties to endorse it, aides said Friday.

    Monti, an economist who has helped restore Italy’s international credibility but has suffered politically for championing a series of tax increases and budget cuts, has steadfastly refused to say whether he will run as a candidate. He already has radically shifted Italy’s political landscape.

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    With Italy facing growing economic uncertainty, Monti has emerged as a centrist force in a field previously split between the center-left Democratic Party of Pier Luigi Bersani, which opinion polls place first, and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has risen in polls since taking a vocal populist message critical of Monti’s tax hikes.

    After losing the support of Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party earlier this month, Monti had said he would step down after the budget was passed.