(ROUGH CUT ONLY - NO REPORTER NARRATION)
Polls opened at 0700 local time (0600GMT) on the second and final day of the Italian elections on Monday (February 25), in one of the most closely watched and unpredictable votes in years.
A surge of protest votes has been fuelling concerns that the ballot may not produce a government strong enough to pull the country from its economic slump.
A bitter campaign, fought largely over economic issues, has been closely watched by financial markets, still wary after the debt crisis that took the whole euro zone close to disaster and brought technocrat prime minister Mario Monti into office in 2011.
Opinion polls give the centre-left coalition, led by the veteran former industry minister Pier Luigi Bersani, a narrow lead, but the race has been thrown open by the prospect of a huge protest vote against austerity policies imposed by Monti, and rage at a wave of corporate and political scandals.
Polls open on final day of Italy election (0:44)
Feb. 25 - Voting kicks off on the second and final day of Italian elections. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). ( Transcript )