After a year under Mario Monti's technocratic government, Italians return to the polls on Sunday February 24 in an election that is being closely watched by financial markets and Europe's policymakers.
With a third of the votes still up for grabs, concern is growing that the next government will be too weak to implement economic reforms, or worse, that the public could elect an anti-establishment upstart.
Opinion polls, earlier this month, predicted that the vote will deliver a working majority in both houses for a center-left coalition, governing in alliance with Prime Minister Mario Monti.
But, there is still the possibility of a surprise result from one of the colorful cast of candidates, which includes disgraced media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi.
Click ahead for a guide to the key players in the election, including the party they belong to and their political views.
By Bianca Schlotterbeck and Holly Ellyatt
Posted February 21 2013