With Berlusconi's back-and-forth over whether he himself will run, so far, the only main declared candidate is center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who handily won his Democrat Party's primary.
Unlike Berlusconi, who dramatically withdrew backing from Monti earlier this month, Bersani has steadfastly supported Monti, even as the government pressed its austerity agenda, including an overhaul of Italy's generous pension system, which raised retirement ages.
Bolstered by opinion polls, Bersani has shrugged off any run by Monti. But another center-left leader, former premier Massimo D'Alema, has tried to discourage a Monti candidacy, calling that "morally questionable" given the center-left's strong support for the technocrat government.
Berlusconi, who says he jumped into politics two decades ago to keep former Communists from winning power, reiterated Sunday that he'd be willing to sacrifice his own bid to regain the premiership if backing Monti would keep the left from winning.
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