Italy's president has dissolved parliament following Prime Minister Mario Monti's resignation.
President Giorgio Napolitano signed the decree on Saturday after consulting with political leaders.
The move formally sets the stage for general elections, now confirmed for February 24-25, in which Monti's participation remains unclear.
The date of the election, widely expected to be February 24, will be decided by Monti's cabinet, which remains in office in a caretaker capacity.
Monti, appointed 13 months ago to steer Italy from a Greek-style debt crisis, stepped down on Friday after ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party withdrew its support for his technocratic government.
He has scheduled a news conference for Sunday during which he is expected to announce whether he will run for office.
Small centrist parties have been courting Monti, but Italian newspapers say he is inclined to refuse.
Polls indicate the center-left Democratic Party will win the vote.
A Monti-led ticket could deprive the Democrats of votes, but would not be expected to garner anything near a majority.