Pier Luigi Bersani The cigar-smoking former Communist, now leader of the centre-left Democratic party, has the best chance of becoming Italy’s next prime minister, based on the latest polls. He is 61, vows to keep austerity and economic reform intact and cites Pope John XXIII, the great reformer of the Catholic church, as his hero.
Silvio Berlusconi The aging Lothario, 76, can’t be stopped sexually or politically. Italy’s three-time prime minister is engaged to 28-year-old Francesca Pascale and is making a bid for a fourth term. The billionaire media and soccer mogul is running on an anti-austerity, anti-Germany platform, though the polls say he can’t win.
Beppe Grillo Leader of the Five-Star Movement, the furry-faced stand-up comedian and blogger is the election wild card. His anti-corruption, Eurosceptic party placed first in the October Sicilian elections and, overall, is polling second after Pier Luigi Bersani’s Democrats. He calls Mario Monti “Rigor Montis.”
Mario Monti Another wild card, Mr. Monti, 69, the unelected prime minister who replaced Mr. Berlusconi 13 months ago, is under pressure from business groups and European leaders to shed his neutrality and get into politics to continue his “Save Italy” effort. Linked with grinding austerity, he may be unelectable unless he gets the support of centrist parties.
(Ciro De Luca/Reuters)