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Center-Left Wins Italian Election by Slim Margin


After hours of vote counting, Italy's center-left leader, Romano Prodi, claimed victory in the election. He took the lower house by a slim margin and looked to possibly get a small majority in the upper house.

It was an all-night affair. The center-left had believed it would all be over by early evening. Exit polls after polling stations closed had given them a strong lead over Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's center-right.

But, as official results came in, the gap narrowed. Finally, in the early hours of the morning, the leader of the center-left coalition, Romano Prodi claimed victory.

The center-left leader told his supporters Italians must work together on a program to change the nation. Prodi said the time had come to unite Italy and to turn a page in its history.

The center-left coalition won by a slim margin in the lower house, by just 25,000 votes. Official results showed that Prodi's coalition took 49.80 percent of the vote, compared with 49.73 percent for Mr. Berlusconi.

The center-right says the vote is too close and has called for a re-count.

Berlusconi spokesman Paolo Bonaiuti said that such a small difference calls for a scrupulous check of the votes.

Meanwhile, in the upper house vote, the counting of ballots cast by Italians living abroad continues. Still, Prodi appears as if he will swing a victory there, as well.

A result is expected Tuesday. What remains clear to everyone is the winner will have no easy time governing Italy.

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