Italian left selects PM candidate
Pier Luigi Bersani, the head of Italy's main centre-left Democratic Party, won a run-off primary to become the main centre-left candidate for Italy's 2013 general elections - a vote that polls indicate could well be won by the Democratic Party given the utter disarray of the opposing centre-right.
Preliminary results gave Mr Bersani 60.8% of the vote compared to Florence mayor Matteo Renzi's 39.1%, with two-thirds of the votes counted.
Even before the results were released, Mr Renzi conceded the victory to Mr Bersani in a Twitter message, writing: "It was the right thing to try, it was beautiful to do it together. Thank you all from the heart."
The primary had been closely watched since the Democratic Party has a significant lead in the polls over former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom party, which has been in chaos following the media mogul's 2011 downfall, a series of corruption scandals within party ranks and Mr Berlusconi's indecision over whether to run for a fourth term.
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 Mr Berlusconi's ability to reign in Italy's public debt and push through structural reforms.
Mr Monti has ruled out running for office but has said he would be willing to stay on in some capacity if he could be of service. Some commentators have floated the idea of Mr Monti taking over the largely ceremonial role as Italian president, while others say his talents would be put to better use as treasury minister.
Nearly all polls had projected Mr Bersani would beat Mr Renzi, who campaigned on an Obama-style "Let's change Italy now" mantra that attracted many disgruntled Italians back to politics.
Mr Renzi used his youth - he's 37 - to bolster his call for Italy's entire political class to be "scrapped".
Mr Bersani, by contrast, is 61 and a veteran of previous centre-left governments, where he has served as transport and industry minister.