Italian polls bring uncertainty
Italian voters cast ballots in parliamentary elections as many fear there will be no clear winner.PT0M0S 620 349
ROME: Italians fed up with austerity have voted in the country's most important election in a generation, as Europe watched for signs of fresh instability in the eurozone's third economy.
Millions turned out to vote for the first time since billionaire tycoon Silvio Berlusconi was ousted in 2011 in a wave of financial market panic to be replaced by former Eurocrat Mario Monti.
"This is a chance to change Italy," said Ida, 48, a computer company employee, casting her ballot at a polling station in a school in Rome where entire families came out to vote on Sunday, forming long queues.
Police take away a woman protesting where former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was voting, in Milan, Italy. Photo: AP
There was a commotion as Mr Berlusconi went to vote in Milan when three topless feminists from the Ukrainian women's power group Femen braved a light snow to hurl themselves towards him with "Enough With Silvio" scrawled on their backs.
For all the attention on Mr Berlusconi though, centre-left Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani is the most likely winner, but analysts say he may fall short of a majority and need to assemble a coalition that could prove unsteady.
"We want to turn the page" after Berlusconi, the cigar-chomping Mr Bersani said in an interview with the left-wing newspaper L'Unita published on Sunday.
Mr Bersani has promised to stick to Mr Monti's budget discipline but says he will do more for growth and jobs as Italy endures its longest recession in 20 years and unemployment hits record highs.
The scandal-tainted Mr Berlusconi, a three-time prime minister who is also a defendant in two trials for tax fraud and having sex with an underage prostitute, is expected to come a close second.
"There's a lot of confusion in these elections. I'm voting Berlusconi. I know he has his defects, but he's the best," said Maria Teresa Gottardi, 65.
But many Italians disagree, like voter Sara Di Gregori, a 30-year-old lawyer in Rome, who warned: "If Berlusconi returns, it would be a disaster."