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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 20:48 GMT 21:48 UK
Italy parties in final poll push
Supporters of Silvio Berlusconi with banners and flags in Naples
Mr Berlusconi was greeted by a sea of flags and banners
The two main rivals in Italy's general election have held their final rallies in what has become an increasingly acrimonious campaign.

Centre-right PM Silvio Berlusconi told voters in Naples they could choose to vote for a centre-left opposition which idolised "Stalin, Lenin and Pol Pot".

In Rome, rival Romano Prodi spoke of a "desperate need for unity...a more just society where nobody is left behind".

Voting in the general election takes place on Sunday and Monday.

Mr Prodi had a five-point lead in opinion polls before they were suspended last month.

Mr Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party is part of the governing coalition, wants another five-year mandate.

Last-minute appeal

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Naples says this last rally has been a very important night for the prime minister.

Some 25% of voters are still undecided and their vote will make all the difference, our correspondent says.

Mr Berlusconi told some 10,000 flag-waving supporters that they faced a choice.

They could vote for "an Italy of tax, an Italy of pessimism, an Italy of insults and an Italy of lies" led by the left, or "an Italy of freedom and rights, of tolerance, respect for all, well-being, above all an Italy of love".

During the six-week campaign, Mr Berlusconi has appeared increasingly rattled, walking out of one TV interview and using vulgar language in public to describe his political opponents, says BBC correspondent David Willey.

With the pencil and the ballot sheet... we will win
Romano Prodi
Opposition candidate

In a radio interview on Friday, he warned voters of the consequences of not voting.

"My first appeal is: go to the polls. If, by chance, too many people stay at home, there could be the possibility - I don't think so, but there could be - of a victory by the left," he said, the Reuters news agency reported.

Mr Berlusconi, who is being investigated by magistrates in Milan over allegations of corruption, then repeated an attack against the judiciary, which he accused of plotting against him.

"I am outraged by the fact that there are state employees that, with the money of Italian citizens, plot against the prime minister, the government and the image of Italy," he said.

Unity

Mr Prodi, a former prime minister himself, beat Mr Berlusconi in an election 10 years ago.

He joined supporters and Union coalition allies at his last rally in Rome's Piazza del Popolo, for his final speech of the campaign.

Romano Prodi (l)
Romano Prodi called for unity at his final rally before voting

"This campaign has been a confrontation between two very different visions of society, the economy and politics," Mr Prodi told some 15,000 supporters.

"Italians need change, and we can do it in the most democratic way possible, with a pen and a ballot," he said.

Some 47 million Italians are registered to vote and an 80% turnout is forecast.

For the first time, about three million Italians who live overseas were also eligible to take part in the poll.

There will be no campaigning on Saturday. Voting will take place on Sunday and Monday, with the first exit polls becoming available on Monday afternoon.


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Watch the rallies in Naples and Rome



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