Bersani 'close to 50%' in centre-left primary poll

PD leader tipped to beat Renzi

Bersani 'close to 50%' in centre-left primary poll

Rome, November 23 - A poll Friday put centre-left Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani within reach of the 50% mark that would give him a straight win in Sunday's centre-left primary elections. Bersani, an ex-Communist party veteran and former minister, was hovering between 43 and 47% for the SWG agency while his main rival, upstart reformist Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, was credited with 29-33%. Puglia governor Nichi Vendola was third with 16-20%. Pundits think it likely Bersani will fall short of the 50% mark on Sunday and go into a run-off against Renzi a week later, where he would be boosted by Vendola's former support. The PD is tipped to win next March's general election but is not expected to have enough seats to form a government on its own. However, some pundits still see Bersani as Italy's most likely next premier, if he succeeds in his declared aim of reaching out to centre parties. With Italy's much-criticised electoral law still needing widely-demanded revision and the political scene in disarray thanks to the rise of comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment Five Star Movement and scandal-sparked disillusion with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, many pundits think current technocrat Premier Mario Monti may be asked to stay on. Monti has said he is open to serving again if there is a stalemate that would put Italy's hard-recovered financial credibility on the line. The former economics professor and ex-European commissioner has received backing for a second term from a range of Catholic centrist groups.

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