by Miao Xiaojuan, Liu Yu
ROME, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- The eurozone's third largest economy has been in a mixed mood of rage and anxiety as Italy's crucial parliamentary election ended its first day of nationwide voting late on Sunday night.
The final outcome is far from certain, although opinion polls predicted a narrow lead by center-left Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani in the lower house, beating ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, comedian turned politician Beppe Grillo and outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti.
In spite of sharing similar angry feelings about the country's economic recession and austerity pain, voters remain divided over solutions for the country's future as well as anxious to see if a new government can be formed.
"I voted for the center-left. I think it's the best available option for the moment," Chiara Maseddu, a local architect, said outside her polling station in downtown Rome, where registered voters cast their ballots on three tickets of different colors respectively for the lower house, the Senate and also the regional election.
"Austerity in principle is the right direction, but we cannot afford too much. Our most urgent problem is employment and growth," she added.
Claudia, a 64-year-old lady, said she was in firm support of Berlusconi's center-right and wanted the country to be crisis-free, but then she insisted that it would be "too personal" to explain the reason.
More than 50 million Italians are eligible to vote, and the two-day election will end at 3 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Monday in all polling stations, after which exit polls are expected to come out soon.
It is likely for the center-left to form a coalition government in alliance with Monti's centrist party, an outcome much favored by eurozone leaders and global investors.
Angela Liberatore, an Italian citizen residing in Brussels, was also in favor of a center-left government to continue with budget control and fiscal measure while also paying attention to fairness and growth.
"Bersani presents a serious and needed alternative to disastrous policies under Berlusconi and will re-balance some of Monti's excessive austerity policies," she said in an email interview with Xinhua.
Observers have warned that the instability of not having a new government could further deepen Italy's economic recession in addition to causing market panic.
"It has the potential to reignite market jitters, driving up interest rates on Italian bond yields and the like, and to throw the eurozone back in crisis," said Michele Chang, EU expert with the Brugge-based College of Europe.
However, even under the preferred scenario, there are still many doubts about whether the new government likely led by Berssani can be strong enough to remain in office and revive the country's sluggish economy.
"The election can make a difference insofar as the incoming government can undertake reforms and potentially get the economy back on track, but the results of such reforms won't be seen very quickly," Chang added.