Former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi looks increasingly likely to run for president in elections that start later this month after Italy’s centre-right parties agreed on his candidacy.
Manfred Weber, the conservative German politician, who heads the European People’s Party (EPP) group, also endorsed Berlusconi on Saturday.
The pan-European EPP is composed of conservative and centre-right parties from across the continent.
“As the leader of the European People’s Party, I support Berlusconi for the presidency of the republic because he has shown that he has the awareness to hold the office,’’ Weber told Corriere della Sera newspaper.
In Italy, the deputies, senators and representatives of the 20 regions elect the president of the republic.
To win, a two-thirds majority is needed in the first three rounds of voting. In the fourth, an absolute majority is sufficient. The first ballot is scheduled for January 24.
The leading members of several right-wing parties met on Friday evening at Berlusconi’s Rome villa.
The lawmakers from the conservative Forza Italia party, the far-right Lega, the hard-right Brothers of Italy and others agreed that 85-year-old Mr Berlusconi was the right fit for president.
A later statement said he had the “authority and experience that the country deserves and Italians expect’’ in the current difficult situation.
Meanwhile leading leftist lawmakers have criticised his plans to stand.
Giuseppe Conte, who leads the populist Five Star Movement, described his candidacy as an “unthinkable option”.
“The figure of the president of the republic must reflect a high and undisputed moral profile.
“I don’t think Berlusconi can boast these requirements,’’ leftist politician, Loredana de Petris, tweeted on Saturday.
Mr Berlusconi, who was prime minister three times, has been tried for corruption after what was dubbed “Rubygate” affair.
He was also tried for bribing witnesses and a musician in connection with his “Bunga Bunga parties” with young women but was acquitted last year.