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Bersani to face Renzi in runoff vote for Italy left leader

Published on Nov 26, 2012 9:30 AM

ROME (REUTERS) - Mr Pier Luigi Bersani, head of Italy's Democratic Party, will face his main rival Matteo Renzi in a runoff next week to pick the centre-left candidate to fight to succeed Mr Mario Monti as prime minister following the first round of a primary vote on Sunday.

With almost half the results counted, Mr Bersani led with about 44 percent, ahead of Renzi, the youthful mayor of Florence, who was campaigning as a moderniser, at around 36 percent, according to party officials.

Both candidates have pledged to maintain the budget discipline pursued by Monti's technocrat government and to respect Italy's commitments to its European partners but say they will encourage growth and will not blindly pursue austerity policies.

"Pier Luigi Bersani has won the first round," Mr Renzi, whose result was better than polls had projected, told supporters late on Sunday. He promised a "loyal" contest before the runoff vote on Dec 2.

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