Voting has begun in Italy for an election whose outcome is far from certain.
Polls will stay open until 14:00 local time on Monday.
The ban on opinion polls in the run-up to the ballot has made predicting what will happen a combination of speculation and guesswork.
Even though it appears his lead has shrunk, the most likely winner is still Luigi Bersani, who has touted the idea of forming an alliance even if his centre-left Democratic Party wins a majority.
Four-time prime minister Silvio Berlusconi staged a whirlwind media blitz over the latter stages of the campaign, winning support for his centre-right People of Freedom party by promising tax refunds. He is tipped for second place.
Picking up fans during his ‘Tsunami Tour’ political campaign where he launched scathing attacks against Italian politicians, comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement are the maverick grouping, who now look like they will come in third.
The result could be lead to a governing alliance between Bersani’s Democratic Party and centrist bloc lead by outgoing prime minister Mario Monti – a prospect that would be appealing to the financial markets. However, many say Monti’s campaign has been lacklustre.
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