MILAN -- The secretary of Italy's largest political party said Friday that the technocratic government of Prime Minister Mario Monti had run its course, paving the way toward early elections.
Angelino Alfano, the secretary of the People of Liberty party, told the lower house of Parliament that his party would not bring down the government, "because we don't want to send the institutions and the country into ruin." But he made clear that the party would no longer support Mr. Monti, who has headed an emergency government with bipartisan support for more than a year.
On Thursday, People of Liberty signaled their disapproval of Mr. Monti's economic policies by walking out on an important vote.
President Giorgio Napolitano, who has the power to dissolve Parliament and call for elections, met with the speakers of both houses of Parliament on Friday as well as with leaders of several political parties to discuss the situation. The mandate of the current Parliament ends in April.
Mr. Napolitano made clear Thursday that he expected Parliament to approve various measures, including a 2013 budget, before the end of the year, calling for an orderly conclusion to the legislation.
So far, Mr. Monti and his technocrats have appeared unaffected by the brewing turmoil. "The government's commitment has not been touched by the current atmosphere," Justice Minister Paola Severino said Friday.
People of Liberty's decision hints at the return to politics of its founder, Silvio Berlusconi, who stepped down as prime minister in November 2011 amid personal and political turmoil. After repeatedly vowing that he would not seek re-election, Mr. Berlusconi on Wednesday abruptly accused his successor of dragging Italy "to the brink of a precipice," a situation that had led supporters to call for Mr. Berlusconi's return to politics, he said.
"Attacking Monti is viewed by him as the fastest way to create consensus, but it looks quite irresponsible," said Massimo Franco, a political analyst with the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera. "Berlusconi doesn't expect to win, he just wants to create a group that will help him to survive and defend his interests."
Mr. Berlusconi, 76, was recently convicted of tax fraud and is facing trial on accusations that he paid for sex with a minor. Yet he has retained control of his party, which was unable to anoint a credible alternative leader in the year after Mr. Berlusconi's resignation.
Any election is likely to be won by the Democratic Party, which has 30.3 percent support, according to a poll by the SWG institute for RAI television, enough to become the primary party in Italy, but far short of the 50 percent needed to form a Parliamentary majority, so deals will have to be struck with minor parties.
Mr. Berlusconi's party still has supporters -- it is polling at nearly 14 percent -- and he is likely to attract the votes of a segment of the electorate unhappy with Mr. Monti's reforms, said Giovanni Orsina, who teaches political science at Luiss University in Rome. Mr. Monti, who has been credited with restoring the country's credibility with financial markets, "put out the fire but he also created some malaise," Mr. Orsina said, citing new property taxes.
The open question remains how many people will desert the polls after recent electoral walkouts in local ballots have suggested that Italians are fed up with their political class. There have been widespread calls for change -- of candidates and of ideas -- which explain in part the popularity of a new anti-establishment party lead by comic Beppe Grillo that is polling at 19.7 percent.
Italians seem mostly resigned. "We are being hit by the crisis so badly -- a crisis that did not start last year -- that we aren't even following these developments day by day, said Cinzia Bellisario, 38, strolling down a Rome street on Friday. "We don't trust these politicians anymore, we don't want to see the same faces in Parliament over and over again. We really want things to change, now."
Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting from Rome.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.