Italy's center-left Democratic Party (PD) chief Pier Luigi Bersani on Sunday won with over 60 percent of the vote a second-round primary against his young rival Matteo Renzi to choose the party's candidate for premiership in spring elections.
With 7,565 of the 9,924 polling places reporting, Bersani had 60.8 percent of votes to 39.1 percent for Renzi. The primary runoff had a turnout of party and non-party voters, anyone over 18 who is Italian or resident in Italy regularly, slightly lower than the 3.1 million people who cast their votes in the first round.
Bersani, a 61-year-old former minister who began his career with Italy's Communist party, had won the first round among five contenders with 44.9 percent of the vote last Sunday, while his 37-year-old challenger Renzi, the Mayor of Florence who was campaigning as a modernizer, had come second with 35.5 percent.
Bersani hailed the vote as "a victory for democracy" adding Renzi was a "strong and fresh presence" in the primary. However, the country needs a "concrete" renewal to face its current most serious economic crisis since World War II, he added.
"I have just phoned Bersani to offer him my congratulations and best wishes for the future, he was the undisputed winner," Renzi said.
However, he pointed out, the primary showed that also an under 40 has the possibility in Italy, a country where the leadership average age is traditionally very high, to play an active role in the political world.
"We leave to Bersani the task to go and speak to the part of Italy which has lost interest in politics," Renzi said.
Recent opinion polls showed that the PD holds a comfortable lead over former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's once-dominant center-right People of Freedom party (PdL) and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo.
According to local analysts, Bersani's victory paves the way for a new government unable to solidify a majority after national vote expected in March to replace Prime Minister Mario Monti's technocratic cabinet.