Italian left faces uphill struggle

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The Independent Online

Italy is to hold a general election on 13 and 14 April, three years ahead of schedule and only two years after the last one, President Giorgio Napolitano announced.

Silvio Berlusconi, the 71-year-old leader of Forza Italia, the biggest party, will be campaigning fiercely for a third term with Northern League, National Alliance and other centre-right allies. On the centre-left, the former prime minister Romano Prodi will not be running again.

Instead Walter Veltroni, 52, the mayor of Rome, will be hoping to attract enough moderate left-wingers and former Christian Democrats to his new Democratic Party to establish it as the other major force in Italian politics – or even clinch an amazing victory.