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Last-minute appeals to voters as Italy election campaign winds up

Last-minute appeals to voters as Italy election campaign winds up
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Campaigning has ended in Italy ahead of the country’s general election on Sunday and Monday, with the outcome described as too close to call and Europe watching nervously.

There is doubt over whether the one time favourite, centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, will be able to form a stable majority. He told a final rally in Rome that Italy needed change and strong government.

The campaign has seen a revival in the fortunes of Silvio Berlusconi. Despite a stream of scandals, gaffes, and much criticism over his performance when in power, he has made a political comeback, drumming up support for his People of Freedom party.

The former prime minister did not appear at a rally in Naples, citing an eye problem. But he told supporters by video link that he would raise lowest retirement pensions to help vulnerable old people.

Ending a campaign that has been disappointing to many of his backers, caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti held a meeting in Florence. He highlighted economic progress made during his time in office, saying Italy should come out of recession around the middle of this year.

By far the biggest rally took place outdoors in the Rome for anti-establishment comedian Beppe Grillo. Before hundreds of thousands of people, he railed against politicians, accusing them of “consuming” the country and telling them to “go home”.