Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said he would stand for a fifth term – should a snap election be called.
He made the announcement before thousands of supporters in the southern city of Bari.
The veteran has returned as the clear leader of his centre-right bloc since February’s general election failed to produce a winner.
Berlusconi also repeated that he would be willing to join his political opponents in a right-left “grand coalition”.
“Either there must be an immediate, strong and stable government for Italy, or Italians should return to the ballot boxes and vote in June,” he said.
For constitutional reasons a new election cannot be called until Italy’s next president takes office in May.
There was not quite the same razzmatazz for Pier Luigi Bersani at his meeting earlier in the day in a poor Rome suburb. The centre-left leader has been under pressure from both inside and outside his party to back a government with Berlusconi.
But again he ruled out joining forces with his rival. “A grand coalition is not the right response to the country’s problems,” he said.
One opinion poll suggests a narrow Berlusconi victory, were an election to be held now.