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February 25, 2013

Polls Close in Italy

The polls have closed in Italy, where voters are now anxiously awaiting the results of the country's most important elections in years.

Elections officials are now starting to count the ballots after Italians completed a second day of voting Monday though officials say turnout appeared to be lower than in past elections.

Exit polling and projections based on early results showed Pier Luigi Bersani's center-left Democratic Party leading in in the lower house of parliament and with the party of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi leading in the Senate.

Bersani campaigned in support of some of the tough economic reforms spearheaded by current Prime Minister Mario Monti while Berlusconi is looking to make an unlikely political comeback. The billionaire is facing trials on charges ranging from fraud to having sex with an underage prostitute.

Many of the exit polls have comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement in third.

Voters angry over a prolonged economic slump and a discredited political elite cast ballots with many looking to anti-establishment parties promising radical change.

Fellow European Union members are keeping a close eye on Italy's two-day national election that could shape the future of the economic bloc's third-largest economy.