Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said Thursday that his successor Mario Monti had pursued an economic programme that "hurts" the country, as a general election looms early next year.
"The government has espoused an economic policy that hurts the country. All the figures have worsened over the past year," Berlusconi told reporters after a meeting of the centre-right People of Freedom party he founded.
"The general disgust people feel with the political system is due to the fact that a government of technocrats installed itself in place of a government elected by the citizens," said the 76-year-old billionaire lawmaker.
But he added: "Our election campaign will not be against Monti because he says he will not be running and it would be counterproductive for us."
Berlusconi stepped down in November 2011 after a parliamentary revolt, a series of sex scandals and a wave of panic on the financial markets.
The flamboyant tycoon, who made his fortune in construction and media, has dominated Italy's political scene for much of the past two decades.
A former high-flying European commissioner, Monti was voted in by parliament to take over from Berlusconi with the task of rescuing Italy from the brink of bankruptcy and has said he is not planning to run for office next year.
Berlusconi, who was convicted of tax fraud last month and is currently on trial for having sex with an underage prostitute, has also said he does not plan to run for premier again but has vowed to stay on in politics.
The People of Freedom party, which is led by Angelino Alfano, a former justice minister under Berlusconi, is due to hold primaries next month to decide who its candidate will be in elections expected in March or April.
Italy's economy, which has suffered from a toxic mix of high debt and anaemic growth for over a decade, plunged back into recession in the second half of last year and is only forecast to begin a gradual recovery next year.