Italy politicians make final drive for votes before poll

Tue Feb 19, 2013 3:50pm EST
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By Barry Moody

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's politicians on Tuesday stepped up their campaigns in the last few days before next weekend's election with the outcome deeply uncertain and up to a third of voters still up for grabs.

Opinion polls on party standings are banned in the last two weeks before the February 24-25 poll but one of Italy's leading pollsters, Renato Mannheimer, said 27.7 percent of Italians were still undecided or could abstain.

This makes the final few days of campaigning crucial for an election which has the potential to again destabilize the euro zone. Italy came close to a major debt crisis in November 2011 before Silvio Berlusconi stood down and was replaced by technocrat Mario Monti.

Mannheimer said in the Corriere della Sera daily that about 5 million people, or 10 percent of voters, would decide in the last few days.

Political leaders were all out on the dustings in a final drive for votes with Berlusconi basking in the adulation of the party faithful in a rally in Milan on Monday night and both anti-establishment leader Beppe Grillo and outgoing premier Monti campaigning on Tuesday night.

A succession of corruption scandals over recent weeks has boosted Grillo, a Genoese comedian famous for obscenity-laced rants against a widely detested political class.

His rise has increased uncertainty over the result although experts say Berlusconi may be the biggest loser from the surge by Grillo's 5-Star Movement.

Latest estimates say he could get as much as 20 percent of the vote, way ahead Monti who has failed to gain traction at the head of an uninspiring centrist coalition which is stuck below 15 percent.   Continued...

People gather in Duomo Square as Five-Star Movement activist and comedian Beppe Grillo speaks during a rally in Milan February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile