Final polls show Italy's center-left needs Monti to govern
By Barry Moody
ROME (Reuters) - The center-left is on course to win Italy's election despite a remarkable surge by Silvio Berlusconi, but it is likely to have to form a governing coalition with outgoing premier Mario Monti, final polls before the Feb 24-25 vote showed on Friday.
Most polls published before a pre-vote blackout showed Pier Luigi Bersani's center-left still five or more points ahead, despite a scandal over a Tuscan bank with which it has links and a continuing fight-back by former Prime Minister Berlusconi.
An average of polls calculated by Reuters showed Bersani on 34.7 percent, 5.7 points ahead of Berlusconi. The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo was running third on 16 percent, with Monti's centrists trailing on 13.6 percent.
While this lead is expected to give Bersani a clear majority in the lower house, the situation in the Senate is much more uncertain and most pollsters believe the center-left will need to seek an ally to govern, with Monti by far the most likely.
Senate seats are awarded by region, with a big bonus for winners. In the key battlegrounds of Sicily and Lombardy there was less than a 3 point difference between the center-left and center-right, barely above the margin of error, ISPO pollsters said in a survey for Corriere della Sera newspaper.
SWG pollsters also showed a Senate projection in which Bersani would win 146 seats, 12 short of a majority, with Monti taking 21. Such a result is considered almost certain to push Bersani into the arms of Monti, despite the former European Commissioner's lack of traction in the campaign.
"An alliance has already been made between Monti and Bersani; it is all organized," said Rome resident Luigi Jervolino as he sipped coffee in a central bar.
The Senate has equal powers to the Chamber of Deputies, and Berlusconi's target is to take enough seats to make a Bersani government unstable. Continued...