Campaigning for the general election ended Friday night, and the dominant Christian Democrats appealed for support by warning of a possible leftist victory led by the Communists, Italy's second-largest party.
"Never before has a leftist alternative been so close," Christian Democrat leader Ciriaco De Mita said.
He said that the voting on Sunday and Monday could result in a "majority of the left"--a government excluding Christian Democrats for the first time since World War II.
De Mita's party has led most of postwar Italy's dozens of governments, and the Communists have not been included in any of them.
Early Election Call
Many analysts say that the campaign has generated little interest.
President Francesco Cossiga called elections a year early because of a political crisis that dragged on for two months, without apparent solution, after Socialist Prime Minister Bettino Craxi resigned. Craxi had served more than 3 1/2 years, a postwar record, and quit in a dispute with the Christian Democrats, the largest party in his coalition, over his refusal to give them the premiership.
A last-minute election boost was given to the Christian Democrats by the semi-official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. The paper called the party's position "clear and honest" and said that Socialists and other non-Catholic parties have "ambiguous" programs "that leave the door open to any sort of solution."
The Socialist paper Avanti took issue, commenting that the Vatican paper "seems to have lost all sense of . . . the respect owed to the autonomy and sovereignty of the Italian state."
Craxi refused to commit his party to any proposed coalition and repeated his accusation that the Christian Democrats sought "a return to their hegemony over Italian politics."
He called the Communist program "an empty bottle that only has a label."
The most recent published poll indicated that both Christian Democrats and Communists were losing some ground and that the Socialists and smaller parties had gained slightly.