Over two million of Italians are expected to cast their vote on Sunday to choose the center-left coalition’s candidate for premiership in next spring general election.
In the Democratic Party (PD) primary election, young Christian-democrat Matteo Renzi will challenge PD national secretary Pier Luigi Bersani, who is supported by most of the center-left establishment and influent CGIL labor union.
Other competitors are the national leader of Left, Ecology and Freedom party (SEL) and president of southern Puglia region Nichi Vendola, centrist Alliance for Italy (API) party and Milan budget councilor Bruno Tabacci, and PD member Laura Puppato.
No center-left leaders in Italy over the past 20 years have succeeded in building a durable coalition able to win an election and govern for a whole term.
According to a recent survey of SWG pollster, 61-year-old Bersani, an ex-Communist party veteran and former minister who stands for the staid tradition of the Italian left, was credited with 43 to 47 percent among primary election voters.
His main rival Renzi, 37, the mayor of Florence who has called on the current politicians to step aside to make way for a new generation of leadership, was hovering between 29 and 33 percent.
Both Bersani and Renzi said they are willing to continue to pursue the reforms started by the emergency government of Prime Minister Mario Monti, but Bersani has called for a more gradual approach to budget austerity.
However, according to local analysts, both candidates will fall short of the 50 percent plus one mark in Sunday’s vote, and will go into a second ballot on Dec. 2.
The center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party of former premier Silvio Berlusconi is also supposed to hold for the first time a primary election on Dec. 16 to choose his successor, even though Berlusconi has not ruled out the possibility of running for Italy’s prime minister again.