In Pictures: Italy's elections

Recession-stricken Italy heads to the polls to elect a new government after weeks of campaigning and rallies.


Italians are heading to the polls in an unpredictable election critical to European markets as the country suffers its longest economic recession in two decades.

Polling booths opened at 8am (07:00 GMT) and will close at 10pm on Sunday. On Monday, voters can cast their ballots between 7am and 3pm. Some 47 million eligible voters are electing both chambers of parliament: The Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti, a former European commissioner, will also compete with three-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon known for a series of scandals, and Pier Luigi Bersani, the centre-left leader of the Democratic Party (PD) who led the last opinion polls.

Campaigning ended on Friday with candidates banned from publicly rallying for support in the 24 hours before the polls open. Opinion polls are also not allowed to be published during the fortnight preceding the vote.