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According to the latest unofficial polls on the even of Italian general elections on February 24 and 25, the centre-left coalition led by the Democratic Party has a four-point lead over the coalition headed by conservative Silvio Berlusconi.

The most dramatic change in the run-up to the vote has been the surge in support for Beppe Grillo, whose avowed populism has been a feature of the campaign. The comic and blogger is expected to become the country's third most significant political force, and "whoever wins the elections will have to deal with him," notes weekly magazine L'Espresso.

As for incumbent head of government Mario Monti, his conversion from technocrat to centrist political leader has not garnered the expected results, notes the magazine.