Silvio Berlusconi's conservative party is backing economist Mario Monti to put together a new coalition, leaving the man they call "professor" some outlandish shoes to fill and Italy's towering financial crisis to dig out of. And there's a catch: Monti's got to do it all ASAP, with the call for new elections nipping at his heels. The backing is tenuous, notes the AP, with Berlusconi's Freedom People party also warning Monti against appointing members of the opposition to the Cabinet. Nevertheless, for the time being, "We have given our willingness to Professor Monti," says the party chair.
The stakes couldn't be higher: Amid Rome's treacherous politics, Monti must enact severe austerity measures and show his "too big to bail out" country is serious about avoiding default—or risk tearing apart the euro zone. He faces $2.6 trillion in debt, $410 billion of which is due next year.