ROME (AP) — Italian Premier Mario Monti will make a speech to the nation saying whether he plans to run for election, a Cabinet minister said Sunday.
Monti is an economist who heads a non-elected government of technocrats that was appointed to put Italy's economy on a more fiscally responsible path. He is now being urged by some politicians to seek election as the nation's leader in a vote expected in February.
Cooperation Minister Andrea Riccardi said Monti will announce his decision in a speech to Italians, but didn't say when.
"I believe the Monti will remain a morale and political point of reference for a great coming together of men and women who want to change Italy," Riccardi said.
"I know that Monti will speak to the country and will lay out his arguments," said Riccardi, who is part of a centrist coalition pushing for the premier to run. "Monti isn't deciding on the basis of the pressures, a sound-bite here and there."
Monti plans to resign as soon as Parliament passes an austerity budget bill being voted on this week. After meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano, the premier again refused Sunday to discuss the upcoming election. Monti's only reply to journalists who asked was "Merry Christmas."
Napolitano offered no help either in deciphering the premier's intentions, telling reporters that's up for Monti to say.
With Berlusconi's back-and-forth over whether he himself will run, so far, the only main declared candidate is center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who handily won his Democrat Party's primary.
Unlike Berlusconi, who dramatically withdrew backing from Monti earlier this month, Bersani has steadfastly supported Monti, even as the government pressed its austerity agenda, including an overhaul of Italy's generous pension system, which raised retirement ages.
Bolstered by opinion polls, Bersani has shrugged off any run by Monti. But another center-left leader, former premier Massimo D'Alema, has tried to discourage a Monti candidacy, calling that "morally questionable" given the center-left's strong support for the technocrat government.
Berlusconi, who says he jumped into politics two decades ago to keep former Communists from winning power, reiterated Sunday that he'd be willing to sacrifice his own bid to regain the premiership if backing Monti would keep the left from winning.