Italy’s right-wing parties agreed Friday to support former premier and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi in his bid to become head of state, ten days before voting begins in parliament. The declaration came after Berlusconi, 85, met with Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigrant League party and GiorgiaMeloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy. A joint statement from their self-styled “centre-right” bloc said Italy’s president represented national unity, emphasising the importance of “authority, balance and international prestige”. “The leaders of the coalition have agreed that Silvio Berlusconi is the right person to hold the high office in this difficult situation, with the authority and experience that the country deserves and that Italians expect.” Berlusconi was prime minister for his centre-right Forza Italia party three times between 1994 and 2011. His supporters had already made clear his ambition to succeed Sergio Mattarella, who steps down as Italy’s president after a seven-year term on February 3. Just over 1,000 senators, MPs and regional representatives begin choosing a new president in secret ballots beginning on January 24, a process that is expected to take several days. Prime Minister Mario Draghi has also intimated he wants the job, without making any formal declaration. Parachuted in by Mattarella a year ago to take over a fragile national unity government, Draghi, a former central banker who has no party of his own, risks being ousted in 2023 elections. Italy’s president plays a largely ceremonial role but wields significant political influence, notably as arbiter in times of crisis.