Italy set for key general election

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ROME. February 24. KAZINFORM Italians are set to vote in general elections seen as crucial for the country's effort to tackle its economic problems, as well as for the eurozone.

Estimates pushished before a ban on polls two weeks ago gave a lead to Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left alliance.

It was thought to be a few points ahead of the centre-right bloc led by ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

On Saturday, Mr Berlusconi gave a TV interview - in what his opponents said was a breach of the campaigning ban.

However, Mr Berlusconi's office later said the interview had been granted only with the explicit agreement that it would be broadcast after polls close on Monday.

A centrist coalition led by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti is also running in the election, held on Sunday and Monday.

And opinion polls suggested there would be a strong turnout for popular comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment movement.

The election was called two months ahead of schedule, after Mr Berlusconi's party withdrew its support for Mr Monti's technocratic government.

The voting is taking place amid a deep recession and austerity measures that have caused widespread public resentment.

It is also being closely watched in the eurozone, with the Italian government's future commitment to austerity measures particularly under scrutiny.

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