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Italy

Polls close in Italy, predictions favorable for Bersani

Polls have closed in the second day of voting in Italy's election, with the earliest projections pointing to an advantage for the center-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani. Final results are still hours away.

Italian television reported on its first parliamentary election exit polls as the voting window closed at 3 p.m. local time (1400 UTC).

According to preliminary predictions, the center-left coalition under Pier Luigi Bersani was in pole position. Sky Italia reported that Bersani's coalition was on course for roughly 34.5 percent of the parliamentary seats.

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's right-leaning coalition was said to be on course for 29 percent.

Sky also reported that Pepe Grillo, the former comedian who calls himself the "spokesman" for a protest party advocating an Italian withdrawal from the euro, was headed for around 19 percent of the vote. Grillo had ruled out an alliance with a more established party, saying he intended to keep his group in opposition.

Outgoing Prime Minsiter Mario Monti's centrist coalition, deemed a potential junior partner for a Bersani-led government, was headed for 9.5 percent.

Final, definitive results in the eurozone's third-largest economy are expected late on Monday. Behind Greece, Italy has the second highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the currency bloc, with national borrowings worth roughly 127 percent of annual economic output.

msh/jr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)