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Italy has not got the full Monti. The outgoing technocrat prime minister Mario Monti has published a political manifesto, but he hasn't backed any party in next year's parliamentary election. The pragmatic move falls short of the engagement some had expected, but it may turn out to be shrewd.

Pressure had been building on Mr. Monti to declare his political intentions since his early resignation announcement on Dec. 8. He had been expected to throw his weight behind a grouping of centrist parties. Instead, he produced a broad list of reforms that he wants the next government to pursue, and signalled his willingness to serve or lead any coalition that embraces them.

Some commentators criticised the move as too timid, but it is pragmatic. The centrist group of parties associated with Mr. Monti is only raking in about 15 per cent of the vote in polls – less than Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, and well behind the coalition led by the centre-left Democratic Party, currently polling nearly 38 per cent. Italians aren't exactly warming to the idea of Mr. Monti entering professional politics: a recent poll suggested 61 per cent of voters reckoned he shouldn't be a candidate. Mr. Monti's hope must be that by keeping his agenda open to all Italians, a broader consensus will build for his pro-Europe, liberal policies.

The move is undoubtedly political, if not explicitly partisan. In the press conference where he outlined his manifesto, Mr. Monti attacked Silvio Berlusconi's populist, anti-European agenda, effectively removing him from any possible centre-right coalition. He also had harsh words for the CGIL trade union – which is closely linked with the Democratic Party – because it opposed recent labour reforms. His manifesto may exacerbate tensions in the centre-left alliance, torn between those who embrace many of his liberal policies, and those who reject them. That's a challenge for Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who may need to deal with centrist parties to achieve a majority in the Senate, the upper house. The Monti manifesto helps frame the terms of a post-election deal.

With just over a month to go before the election, Mr. Monti is far from building the credible party that markets would like to see in power. But Italian politics has become a little less muddy.