ROME (REUTERS) - The former leader of Italy's centre-left party, Pier Luigi Bersani, was alert and speaking to his family on Monday after surgery to treat a brain haemorrhage, and doctors said his condition was stable.
Mr Bersani's unexpected illness prompted an outpouring of sympathy and support, including from Prime Minister Enrico Letta and rivals Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo.
Mr Bersani's surgeon, Ermanno Giombelli, was cautious in his comments during a press conference broadcast from a hospital in the northern city of Parma, saying complications can follow such surgery several days later.
However, he added: "I'm optimistic. He was conscious both before and after surgery."
The 62-year-old underwent surgery on Sunday.
Mr Bersani appeared set to become Italy's prime minister ahead of elections in February 2013, but his Democratic Party (PD) failed to win enough seats to govern alone and the former communist was unable to form a governing coalition.
He resigned as leader of the PD after a party rebellion, and fellow party member Letta was appointed to lead the compromise left-right coalition currently in power.