Italian parliament has been dissolved by President Giorgio Napolitano following caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti’s resignation.
The move paves the way for elections, now confirmed for 24-25 February.
Mario Monti, brought in last year to form a technocratic government, stepped down on Friday after MPs passed his budget.
It followed the withdrawal of support from former PM Silvio Berlusconi’s party. Silvio Berlusconi is to run again. Mario Monti has not unveiled his plans.
After meeting political leaders, President Giorgio Napolitano told reporters: “I have just signed the decree for the dissolution of parliament.”
He called for a “measured and constructive electoral campaign”.
Soon after, the cabinet announced that the election would be held over two days, on 24-25 February.
Mario Monti, who remains head of an interim administration until the elections, is expected to announce on Sunday whether he will run again.
Italian parliament has been dissolved by President Giorgio Napolitano following Prime Minister Mario Monti’s resignation
Although the economist and former European commissioner cannot stand for election himself as he is already a senator for life, there is speculation that he could become the unofficial leader of a centrist coalition and return as a minister.
Since taking office in November 2011, Mario Monti and his non-party team of ministers have implemented economic austerity measures in the form of spending cuts and tax hikes.
In his last speech before his resignation, Mario Monti said the last 13 months had been “difficult but fascinating”.
“The work we did… has made the country more trustworthy… more competitive and attractive to foreign investors,” he told foreign diplomats in Rome.
The election was triggered after Silvio Berlusconi’s party withdrew its support from Mario Monti’s government, accusing it of following policies that “were too German-centric”.
The three-times prime minister has said he intends to campaign on an anti-austerity platform, pledging to cut taxes and create jobs.
But the polls show Silvio Berlusconi is trailing a centre-left alliance led by Pier Luigi Bersani, which broadly supports a continuation of Mario Monti’s economic programme while pledging to ease some of the pressure on the poorest members of society.
Egypt’ Supreme Court has overturned a decree by President Mohammed Mursi to recall parliament.
Mohammed Mursi had issued the decree in defiance of a military council ruling that dissolved parliament.
Members of parliament gathered for a brief session earlier in the day before the ruling of the Supreme Constitutional Court was announced.
Hundreds have gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest against the court’s latest decision.
Protesters chanted slogans calling the decision “illegitimate” and denouncing the military, reports say.
The same court sparked the current impasse last month, when it said the parliamentary election was null and void because of flaws in the law setting it up.
Egypt' Supreme Court has overturned a decree by President Mohammed Mursi to recall parliament
The Muslim Brotherhood party – Mohammed Mursi’s power base – has the biggest bloc of seats in the parliament, and the current political impasse is seen by analysts as being part of a power struggle between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the party.
Members of parliament met for their brief session before it was adjourned by Speaker Saad al-Katatni.
Saad al-Katatni said that by holding the assembly, MPs were not contradicting the dissolution ruling “but looking at a mechanism for the implementation of the ruling of the respected court. There is no other agenda today”.
The MPs approved Saad al-Katatni’s proposal that the parliament seek legal advice from a high appeals court on how to implement the supreme court’s ruling on the election.
Some non-Islamist MPs boycotted the session, criticizing Mohammed Mursi for what they said was an attack on the judiciary.
The liberal Free Egyptians party said Mohammed Mursi’s “violation of the Supreme Court’s decision” represented a “challenge to the legitimacy of his own rule”, as the president had taken his oath of office in front of the court.
The SCAF said it was confident “all state institutions” would respect the law and constitution.
The dissolution of parliament took place the day before Mohammed Mursi was elected in Egypt’s first ever free presidential poll.
It is unclear how events will unfold as the situation – with the new president elected without a new constitution having been drafted – is unprecedented, analysts say.
At the same time as dissolving parliament, the SCAF also issued a constitutional declaration stripping the president of any authority over the military, giving itself legislative powers and the power to veto the as-yet-undrafted constitution.