The next general election in Italy, in the spring, will determine who will lead the country as it struggles to recover from recession and high unemployment. On Sunday, Italy held a primary runoff for center-left candidates.
Sunday's runoff pitted veteran Pier Luigi Bersani, 61, against the 37-year-old mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, who campaigned on an Obama-style "Let's change Italy now" mantra that has attracted many disgruntled Italians back to politics.
Nearly all polls projected Bersani, the leader of the main center-left Democratic Party, as winning Sunday's primary. He won the first round of balloting Nov. 25 with 44.9 percent of the vote to Renzi's 35.5 percent.
With Silvio Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom party lagging in the polls and in chaos over whether the three-time premier will run again, analysts were already discussing the possibility that Bersani could soon become Italy's next premier.
The 2013 general election — expected in March or April — will decide if Italy continues on the same path to financial health charted by Premier Mario Monti, appointed last year to save Italy from a Greek-style debt crisis. The former European commissioner was named to head a technical government after international markets lost confidence in then-premier Berlusconi's ability to reign in Italy's public debt and push through structural reforms.