Italy vote too close to call after latest round of projections

Elections pitting Premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservative coalition against center-left forces led by Romano Prodi were too close to call Monday after projections showed Berlusconi's forces leading in the Senate but in a neck-and-neck race in the lower Chamber of Deputies.

Projections based on 86 percent of pollster Nexus' voting sampling gave Berlusconi's alliance 157 seats in the Senate compared to 152 for Prodi. However, the majority was not assured with the margin of error at 1 to 3 percentage points, and six seats chosen by Italians voting abroad unaccounted for in the projections.

Earlier projections with 81 percent of the sampling had given the edge to Prodi, with 158 Senate seats for his party compared to 151 for Berlusconi's forces. And exit polls had given Prodi's alliance the lead in both houses, but later projections for the Senate gave the edge to Berlusconi.

Nexus said both sides were virtually even in the chamber based on 30 percent of its sampling, although it didn't provide figures.

Prodi postponed a news conference after the projections were released.

The Senate and lower chamber of parliament have equal powers, and any coalition would have to control both in order to form a government. Both center-left and center-right leaders have said if neither side controls both houses, new elections should be called.

Even with a one-seat majority in the Senate, a coalition would officially win. But it would find it extremely difficult to pass legislation, reports AP.

O.Ch.