Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi would be backed by 9pc of Italian voters if he goes ahead with a plan to form a new party before elections in May, according to an opinion poll.
That would leave him with the third-biggest political force in Italy, after the Democratic Party with 30pc and the anti-austerity Five Star Movement with 19.5pc. Mr Berlusconi said he may break with the People of Liberty party (PDL) he founded in 2008 to start a new movement and seek to replace Prime Minister Mario Monti.
That announcement came about a month after Mr Berlusconi said he didn't intend to run and supported a primary to choose the PDL candidate.
The poll, which put the PDL at 14.3pc without Mr Berlusconi's defection, didn't indicate how low its support might slip if the former premier formed a new bloc.