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ROME: Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said yesterday he may not stand in elections next spring and suggested that technocrat premier Mario Monti could stay on as head of a centre-right government.
Berlusconi’s move, which revealed his fears that the centre-left will win the vote, indicated he had abandoned hope of winning enough support to mount a credible campaign as leader of the centre-right, which is trailing heavily in opinion polls.
It was greeted with scepticism by many politicians and analysts, who saw it as a tactical move that underlined the weakness of Berlusconi’s badly divided camp and said little about the likelihood of Monti returning after the election.
Monti himself has repeatedly said he will not stand for election but would be willing to stay on for the sake of the country if there was political deadlock after the polls, which are due by April.
Berlusconi said he wanted to unite a broad coalition capable of defeating the centre-left, and was prepared to stand down to gain the support of smaller centrist parties that have been reluctant to join forces with his People of Freedom (PDL) party.
“Silvio Berlusconi has always said and continues to say that he is ready to stand aside to allow all moderates to unite in a single force that can face the left together,” he told his own Canale 5 television network. “I have always wanted the good of the country I love, I have never had any personal ambition,” he said.
He declined to identify a potential leader if he did step aside, but said Monti could lead a centre-right government.