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Leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, Luigi Bersani, cast his vote in the Emilia Romagna city of Piacenza, as Italians take part in an election his party’s tipped to win by a small margin.

Silvio Berlusconi used a ballot box in his home city of Milan. Leading a centre-right grouping that includes his People of Freedom party, the four-time prime minister is expected to come second.

Outgoing premier Mario Monti was also in Milan, representing a centrist coalition that may end up governing with Bersani’s centre-left Democratic Party – an appealing prospect to the financial markets.

Although he has not told the media exactly where or when he will be voting, it is anticipated that the leader of the Five Star Movement Beppe Grillo will be in Genova. The comedian’s maverick group may come in third place.

Polls are open until 14:00 local time on Monday.

The election is not expected to produce winners with enough backing to form a strong government and pull Italy out of recession and 10 years of economic stagnation.

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