Silvio Berlusconi yesterday ended weeks of speculation by announcing that he would run again for the job of prime minister, the post he was forced out of last year.
"I am running to win," the leader of the right-wing populist People of Freedom (PDL) party told journalists in Milanello, near the northern city of Milan.
He had called a meeting of the PDL for today and had opened talks with his former coalition allies the Northern League to try to agree on a joint campaign backing a single candidate, he added.
"When I did sport, when I worked and studied, I never entered into a competition to be well-placed, but always to win," he said.
"I hope to be in a position to be able to explain to Italians that there is a need for a force that enjoys a majority to change the rules of the constitution."
A general election is expected to be held in March or Apri but the precise date has not been set.
Berlusconi's announcement confirmed comments by leading members of his party and strong hints that he had himself made over the past few days.
In October, he had said he would not run again for the premiership. On Wednesday, however, the 76-year-old media tycoon said he had been assailed by requests to return to the field as soon as possible.
This will be his sixth bid to become prime minister, a post he has held three times during a two-decade political career.
A parliamentary revolt forced him from office in November last year as he was fighting a series of scandals that had damaged his reputation and, said critics, the country's standing. The financial markets had reacted so badly Italy was close to bankruptcy.
Mario Monti took over as prime minister at the head of an unelected government of technocrats and set about introducing a policy of tax rises and austerity measures to get the economy under control.
On Thursday, PDL lawmakers abstained from confidence votes in the government to protest Monti's policies, but stopped short of bringing down the executive they have so far supported.
The renewed political tension has once again spooked the financial markets and Pier Luigi Bersani, the newly nominated leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, accused Berlusconi of "incoherence" and being "irresponsible".