Italy's Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi confirmed on Wednesday he would not lead his People of Freedom (PDL) party in next year's Italian election and called for a primary to decide the centre-right candidate, reports Reuters.
The 76-year-old media magnate said this month he might not stand if withdrawing his candidacy could help centrist and centre-right parties come together to form a "moderate" bloc.
But his statement on Wednesday went further.
"I will not stand for premier again but I remain at the side of younger people who can play and score goals," said the owner of AC Milan football club who quit as prime minister in November during a mounting financial crisis.
"I still have good muscles and some good sense but my role will be to give advice."
The flamboyant Berlusconi, whose reported "bunga bunga" parties won worldwide notoriety, has taken a largely backseat role in politics since he was forced to step down, but he remains the dominant figure within the PDL.
However, an opinion poll last month gave him just 18 percent personal support among the wider public, well behind former justice minister Angelino Alfano who celebrates his 42nd birthday next week.
Alfano is the favourite to take the centre-right into the election, which must be held no later than April, although other candidates are likely to emerge.
Berlusconi suggested December 16 as a suitable date for the primary, a few weeks after centre-left parties hold a primary of their own on November 25 to choose a candidate for prime minister.
The financial crisis facing Italy has eased in recent weeks but markets have been watching closely for signs of what government might emerge after technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti stands down.