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Italians Complete Parliamentary Voting Today

Polls have re-opened across Italy for the final day of voting in general elections. The Interior Minister said 66.5 percent of Italians voted on the first of two days.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's challenger, Romano Prodi, is the only person to have beaten him in an election. That was 1996. This time, gamblers and opinion polls published until two weeks ago backed Prodi as the favorite, one more time.

But Mr. Berlusconi has predicted that a high turnout will propel him to victory. And, so far, the turnout has been quite high. The interior ministry said it was 66.5 percent at 10 pm on Sunday, when polls closed after the first day of voting.

Sunday morning, the prime minister voted in Milan and his opponent in his hometown, Bologna. The campaign has been a bitter one, with the two contenders trading insults at each other until the day of reflection, before the polls.

Mr. Berlusconi has told voters he will reduce taxes. Prodi has said the country's economy needs to be helped out of its current state of stagnation. Both have promised Italy will withdraw its troops from Iraq.

As center-left voters left the polling stations, they expressed hope this election would end Mr. Berlusconi's tenure. Giovanni is an Italian who lives and works in England, but he says he had to come to vote this time.

"My vote was against Mr. Berlusconi, rather than for another party. As an Italian living abroad, he hasn't represented us as a nation in a way that has enabled us to be proud of being Italian or to stand behind our nation in the international decision's he's made." Giovanni says.

Giovanni, would like to see Italy come out of a difficult economic situation. Prodi has promised he will tackle Italy's bulging national debt. Mr. Berlusconi's supporters hope the prime minister will swing a surprise victory. He has depicted Prodi as a front-man for Communists, in a campaign to damage Italian democracy.

Exit polls are expected soon after the 3 pm closure of polling stations and first partial results hours later.