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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Markets Predict Victory For Right as Italians Vote

ROME -- Expectations of a center-right victory in parliamentary elections sent stock market prices sharply higher Monday as Italians waited to learn if their scandal-shaken country made an historic move to the left or conservatism.

The moment evoked comparisons to the choice voters faced after the defeat of fascism in World War II. In 1948, the electorate rebuffed the Communists' bid to run the country and went instead for the Christian Democrats, the start of more than four decades of dominance by the centrist party.

Among those waiting to vote almost till the last minute Monday was the campaign's most talked-about candidate, Silvio Berlusconi, who used his media and real estate empires as a springboard into politics as the head of a conservative alliance determined to block the former Communists from power.

His chief rival was Achille Occhetto, who transformed the Communists into his Democratic Party of the Left.

First returns were likely a few hours after the end of voting, but the full count was likely to last into Tuesday.

Two years of corruption investigations that exposed systematic kickbacks from businessmen to politicians brought down the Christian Democrats, along with their major allies, the Socialists, also heavily involved in the scandals.

Implicated have been hundreds of politicians, from small-town commissioners to senators to ex-premiers. In January, when Italy's president ordered new elections, more than one of every four delegates was under investigation.

Share prices on the Milan exchange rose strongly and the market index was up 3.76 percent. Traders said the bullish market reflected building expectations that the center-right would win and could form a stable government. The lira also rallied against the dollar, up nearly 12 points from Friday's fixing up 1,653.