Bersani, Monti top Italy opinion poll
ReutersROME--Center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani is favorite among Italians to lead the next government, with outgoing technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti second most popular and Silvio Berlusconi coming a close third, a poll showed on Sunday.
December 31, 2012, 12:12 am TWN
Bersani scored 36.2 percent, Monti 23.3 percent and Berlusconi 21.8 percent, the poll, conducted by the CISE electoral research institute for Il Sole 24 Ore daily, found.
Whoever wins the Feb. 24-25 elections will have to tackle a deep recession and rising unemployment in the eurozone's third largest economy as well as keeping strained public finances under control.
Monti said on Friday he would lead a centrist alliance, setting up a three-way contest with Bersani's Democratic Party (PD) and Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL). The poll of 1,309 Italians was carried out between Dec. 22 and Dec. 28.
A former European Commissioner, Monti was appointed to lead an unelected government of experts to save Italy from financial crisis a year ago.
He is a favorite with international investors, the Catholic Church, and the business establishment, and has been widely credited with restoring Italy's credibility after the scandal-plagued Berlusconi years.
The coalitions that will back the prime ministerial candidates are not yet finalized but 34.6 percent of respondents in the poll said they would vote for Bersani's PD, 19.7 percent Berlusconi's PDL, and 14.3 percent the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement if parliamentary elections were held now.
The UDC, Italy's largest centrist party which is among those backing Monti, came in fourth place with 6.4 percent.
Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, right, walks alongside his wife Elsa during a private visit in Venice on Sunday, Dec. 30. Center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani is ...