Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday said he could abandon his re-election bid if Prime Minister Mario Monti decided to run in the upcoming election as leader of a broad centre-right coalition.
“If Monti runs for leader, I would take a step back,” said Berlusconi, who recently criticised his successor for failing to revive the Italian economy.
Berlusconi added, however, that former commissioner Monti would likely not join a particular party but could instead lead a movement of “moderates”.
Berlusconi said he could also be a coordinator of such a coalition without being its candidate or choose to go for some “well-deserved rest”.
The comments immediately surprised observers, coming in a week in which Berlusconi and Monti have been clashing at a distance with barbed references to each other’s economic records in government.
“I was pushed by my supporters to be the candidate, I did not put myself forward,” Berlusconi said.
The 76-year-old tycoon, a convicted fraudster who is on trial for abuse of power and having sex with an underage prostitute, is so far running for election for the sixth time in two decades.