Premier Mario Monti has told the Italian president he plans to resign following the sudden loss of support from Silvio Berlusconi's party, paving the way for early elections a year after the economist helped pull the country back from the brink of financial disaster.
Only hours earlier, Berlusconi announced he would run again for premier, aiming for a comeback just a year after he quit in disgrace under the pressure of financial markets as Italy teetered toward the brink of financial disaster.
The office of President Giorgio Napolitano, who met for nearly two hours with Monti at the presidential palace, said the premier told the head of state that without the support he could no longer effectively govern Italy, which is mired in recession and trying to emerge from the eurozone sovereign debt crisis.
Monti, an economist who heads a non-elected Cabinet of technocrats which replaced Berlusconi's a year ago, will quickly consult with political leaders to see if they can pull together to pass a budget and financial stability law deemed critical to healing Italy's finances.
Once he does that, Monti will "hand in his irrevocable resignation in the hands of the president," the presidential palace said.
The palace communique quoted Monti as concluding that Berlusconi's conservative Freedom People party essentially had made a "judgment of categorical non-confidence on the government" and its strategy.
In comments to lawmakers Friday, Berlusconi's No. 2 aide, party secretary Angelino Alfano, had blamed Monti's austerity strategy for failing to jump-start the economy.
Before an election date can be set, Napolitano must dissolve Parliament ahead of its full term's end in late April. Elections must then be held within 70 days of Parliament's dissolution.