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Italy votes in general election as Europe watches and waits

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Italy votes in general election as Europe watches and waits
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Italians are going to the polls on Sunday to vote in a general election that threatens to reverberate around Europe. Markets are watching nervously to see whether a government emerges that is strong enough to end the country’s recession and avoid aggravating the eurozone’s debt crisis.

The marginal favourite, Pier Luigi Bersani, has suggested he wants to form an alliance even if his centre-left Democratic Party wins a majority – to strengthen the government and curry favour with financial markets.

Four-times prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi is not standing himself but his campaigning has boosted support for his People of Freedom party. It has also marked a revival in the fortunes of the man who stepped aside in 2011 as Italy faced financial meltdown.

The result is made even less certain by the presence of the maverick Beppe Grillo, whose colourful denunciation of the traditional parties has captured people’s imaginations and produced the biggest final election rally on Friday.

Impressive to many in government but disappointing in the campaign, Mario Monti is leading a centrist coalition. It is thought he may have a future role in a government headed by Bersani.