Italy’s PM Mario Monti is in South Korea this week for the nuclear security summit. This marks Monti’s main foray outside the economic arena into the world diplomatic and security scene. Today he has met with President Obama who complimented him for his economic leadership not only of the Italian economy, but also for his contribution to solving the European financial crisis. This is no mean feat. Italy’s two Marios have risen to the top of European policy making in the last six months and have turned Italy from the weak link to a main architect of the resolution of the crisis that at one point had put the entire European integration at risk. We are not surprised that Monti is held in such esteem abroad. What is more surprising and in some ways unique, is the popularity that Monti is enjoying in Italy after less than six months in power, months during which he had to push through some of the most aggressive fiscal and reform packages in Italy’s modern history.
Apart from two fringe populist parties, and possibly the most left leaning union, Monti is enjoying very wide support from the main political parties on the right and the left, from the public, and from the unions and manufacturers associations (in Italy they are called ‘le parti sociali’). It is likely that Monti’s political adventure will be case study material in future decades about the fact that when a political leader has integrity and personal credibility, he can afford to impose bitter medicines to his citizens and remain very popular. It is unlikely that Monti will want to stay past the 2013 elections, but if he wanted to it would be very difficult to beat his quiet, confident style.