April 13th, 2008 05:09 EST
Will Italian voters stay the course or change direction?
Italians are voting Sunday and Monday to decide who should replace the government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi
Widespread frustration with Italy's political class and lagging economy will shape many voters' decisions.
Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Rome's former mayor, Walter Veltroni, are the top contenders in the race.
Surveys are predicting the 71-year-old Mr. Berlusconi could win a third term as prime minister. However, recent polls indicate his lead over the 52-year-old Mr. Veltroni is shrinking.
Mr. Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom party has capitalized on voters' frustration with Mr. Prodi's center-left government.
But Mr. Veltroni's message of change is slowly catching on. His center-left Democratic Party says Italy needs a new generation of politics.
Italy is holding elections three years ahead of schedule because Mr. Prodi's government fell in January due to a vote of no confidence. His government collapsed just 20 months into its five-year term after failing to secure a strong coalition.
All 945 parliamentary seats in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies are being contested this week.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.