Italy / Berlusconi withdraws candidacy for president
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced in a statement that he has decided not to run for president in the January 24 elections.
The appointment of Prime Minister Mario Draghi to the post is seen as the most likely outcome, but it is still unclear whether the parties supporting his coalition will vote for him for fear that his departure could trigger early national elections.
"I have decided to take another step on the path to national responsibility, asking those who proposed me to give up my name for the Presidency of the Republic," Berlusconi said.
Berlusconi was temporarily banned from holding a public office following a conviction for tax fraud in 2013 and is still on trial.
The Italian president has many ceremonial duties, but is also responsible for resolving political crises, making him a key role in a country where governments survive on average only one year.
The winner of the secret ballot needs a two-thirds majority in any of the first three rounds of voting. After that an absolute majority is enough.
Neither the center-right bloc nor the center-left bloc has enough votes to elect a candidate from their camp, which means a compromise is needed to prevent the protracted stalemate.
"We will talk to the leaders of the center-right ... to agree on a name that could gather a broad consensus in parliament," Berlusconi said in a statement.