by Filippo Pala
ROME, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Italy's 2013 general election to be held on Feb. 24-25 is drawing attention from all over Europe, even the world, as observers expect a radical change in the debt-ridden and economically sluggish country.
For the last two decades, the political struggle has been between arch-rivals the center-left coalition lead by the Democratic Party and the center-right alliance. The former's prime minister candidate is Pierluigi Bersani while the center-rights are led by Silvio Berlusconi, who has ruled the country for almost 10 of the last 20 years.
In fact, this election is very different from those of the past two decades: first of all, the country is in a deep economic crisis, and as in many other European countries, it severely affects the population.
The situation does not seem to have improved much over in the last year with a technocratic government, led by former European Commissioner Mario Monti, who is also among the candidates for prime minister in this election.
The country harbors a strong discontent against the political system based on so many parties which has governed the country since the end of World War II. Surveys show that "traditional" politicians get the confidence of less than 5 percent of Italian citizens.
This is demonstrated by the rise of the Five-Star Movement led by the famous comedian Beppe Grillo. The party harnesses the power of internet communication to channel the anger of millions of Italians.
Accused by many of populism, extremism and even fascism, Grillo has been attracting thousands of people to his public rallies. According to opinion polls, Grillo may win 20 percent of the vote, which could turn it into the second largest force in Italian politics.
They promise a political program that involves budget cuts for the political world, a significant increase on the services provided by the state and big tax cuts: a recipe that some economists think would be hard to enforce. However, voters seems to love it.
So far, polls have predicted success for the center-left coalition. However, even if it wins, it might not have a clear majority to govern.
The result would then come down to alliances. There is a good chance the center-left will collaborate with Monti, or form a "grand coalition" with Berlusconi.
Berlusconi, the former premier, is certainly the most famous Italian politician at the world level. His possible comeback in the last days of the campaign seems to worry many of Italy's international partners.
He recently sent millions of Italians a letter with a form to get a refund on tax on house possessions. Many have called it "political propaganda," and he has been sued for fraud and vote buying by another campaigner, the magistrate Antonio Ingroia.
According to recent polls, almost everyone in Italy believes that the composition of the next government will be influenced by the views of the European institutions, which consider Italy a country "under surveillance" for its deficit problems and the lack of growth, as well as the instability of its political system.
The question is who can save the country economically.