Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness could be the new president of the European Parliament, pending the results of this weekend's Italian election.

Speculation about the Louth woman taking over from current President Antonio Tajani has mounted in the last 48 hours after the Italian announced on Thursday that he had accepted a proposal from Silvio Berlusconi to be his prime ministerial candidate.

President Tajani tweeted: "I thank Mr Berlusconi for his act of esteem towards me. I gave him, tonight, my willingness to serve Italy."

He added that it was now up to fellow Italians what they decide in tomorrow’s election.

President Tajani is a close political ally of Mr Berlusconi in the centre-right Forza Italia party.

Ms McGuinness is currently the first vice-president of the European Parliament and one of the most prominent members of the European People’s Party, to which Fine Gael is aligned.

Her office said that she "does not want to engage in speculation" about President Tajani’s position as it is a question for him in the first instance.

"As first Vice-President, Ms McGuinness works very closely with President Tajani and she enjoyed the support of 75% of MEPs in 2017 when she stood for the position of Vice-President," said her office.

The Brussels-based EU Observer has reported that if Forza Italia does win the Italian election and President Tajani departs Brussels to lead a centre-right coalition, Ms McGuinness would automatically become the interim European Parliament president.

Europe’s 751 MEPs would then vote for Mr Tajani's successor in an open ballot, "which would likely take place after he had formed a government in Italy sometime between April and June."

If Ms McGuinness, who has been an MEP since 2004, were to succeed MrTajani as President of the European Parliament, she would be in place until the next scheduled elections in mid 2019.

As vice-president, the former journalist regularly deputises for President Tajani and chairs sessions of the parliament.

Voters from the 40-million strong Italian electorate will go to the polls between 7am and 11pm tomorrow with the final results of the election expected by Monday afternoon.