The 81-year-old’s presence had been the sticking point preventing the two parties from breaking a political deadlock that followed inconclusive national elections in March.
But in a move which could finally bring an end to the billionaire’s three-decade long political career, Berlusconi announced on Wednesday night that he would not veto the populist administration or impose any pre-conditions.
The four-time ex-premier went on to say that his Forza Italia party would not support a parliamentary vote of confidence for the administration and stressed that the centre-right coalition – which won the biggest share of the 4 March vote – would stick together.
“A League-M5S government will not mark the end of the centre-right alliance,” he said. “We will collaborate in regional and local elections, so it remains a shared story, and with shared commitment to our voters.”
Earlier on Wednesday, president Sergio Mattarella had set a 24-hour deadline for Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League, and MS5 leader Luigi Di Maio to try to clinch a deal. If the pair fail to reach an agreement by Thursday, then the president will be forced to appoint a caretaker government.
Di Maio – whose party emerged as the largest single party in the election – insisted that the only way the parties could work together would be if Salvini dropped Berlusconi, who Di Maio sees as the potent symbol of the corrupt politics his party has railed against.
Berlusconi’s late decision could have been swayed by fears that Forza Italia could lose traction in the event of a new snap election. The League emerged as the surprise winner in the centre-right alliance in March while its support in opinion polls has since grown from 18% to around 22%.
“Some important personalities within the party would be scared about the prospect of new elections. They have the impression that Forza Italia could be finished off,” said Massimiliano Panarari, a politics professor at the Guido Carli Free International University for Social Studies in Rome.
“It’s also further evidence that the aggressive political effect and expansion power in public opinion of Berlusconi is finished. Now I think we can really say that the Berlusconi era is over.”