Silvio Berlusconi has withdrawn as a candidate for Italy's premiership as part of a pact with the devolutionist Northern League.
Mr Berlusconi has been striving for weeks to agree a deal with his estranged former allies to strengthen the centre-right bloc.
They aim to block the centre-left government expected to emerge from the election on 24 and 25 February.
The League had previously refused a pact because of rank-and-file opposition to the scandal-plagued Mr Berlusconi being a candidate for prime minister.
The media magnate was driven from office in 2011 at the height of Italy's economic crisis after he was charged with having sex with an underage prostitute.
Northern League leader Roberto Maroni confirmed the coalition pact, telling a news conference it "says explicitly that the candidate for prime minister will not be Silvio Berlusconi".
Earlier, in an interview on the Italian radio station RTL, Mr Berlusconi had left the issue of the premiership in a future centre-right government open.
He said he would prefer to be the economy minister and that most likely Angelino Alfano, secretary of his People of Freedom (PDL) party, would be the prime ministerial candidate.
Mr Berlusconi wanted the alliance with the Northern League to increase his chance of winning enough seats in the upper house, or Senate, to make it hard for the next government to pass laws.
He said he would remain head of the PDL and the coalition.
The centre-left led by Pier Luigi Bersani has been ahead in opinion polls for months.
The latest survey, published yesterday, suggested it would win 38-39% of the vote.
A PDL-League alliance could secure about 28%, with a centrist alliance under outgoing premier Mario Monti on 14-15%, the poll indicated.
The League wants strict controls on immigration and favours giving more power and autonomy to Italy's 20 regions.
It wants more tax revenue to go directly to the regions, saying the rich north is picking up the tab for a south it brands as corrupt and economically backward.