Italy's right-wing bloc set for election win

STORY: Italy is going to the polls on Sunday (September 25) after Prime Minister Mario Draghi's national unity government was brought down by party infighting in July.

Here's what you need to know about the upcoming elections.

Who are the main parties and personalities?

Polls have consistently shown the country's right-wing bloc will win a majority in both houses of parliament.

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the nationalist Brothers of Italy, is seen as frontrunner to become the nation's first female prime minister.

The former far-right activist from Rome has energized her party, which is set to see its share of the vote leap to around 25% from only 4% at the last election in 2018.

Her party is widely expected to emerge as Italy's largest single party at Sunday's vote and lead an alliance of right-wing parties to a comfortable victory.

The conservative bloc also includes the League party, led by Matteo Salvini, and Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia.

Salvini is the abrasive former interior minister, who takes a hard line on immigration.

In recent months, he has been eclipsed by Meloni.

Berlusconi, who will turn 86 four days after the election, has shrugged off old age, ill-health, sex scandals and a criminal conviction.

The four-times prime minister is battling for a central role after the vote, even if his party is the junior partner now among its three main parties.

Italy's electoral system favors groups able to form broad alliances, likely amplifying the right-wing bloc's victory.

The right has also been helped by divisions in the center-left...

There, attempts to form a broad electoral alliance by the main Democratic Party, led by former prime minister Enrico Letta, fell apart.

That leaves three main groups fighting for votes - the PD and its allies, the centrist Azione party and its Italia Viva partner, and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

Led by Giuseppe Conte, the 5-start Movement withdrew support for Draghi's government in July, sparking divisions that led to this early election.

His strategy has in part been vindicated by an improvement in 5-Star's poll standings, but the party still faces a spell in opposition.

And what are the main issues for voters?

As in other European countries, the cost of living crisis has overshadowed other concerns such as immigration, crime and public services.

The conservative alliance has called for tax cuts across the board to help Italians cope with rising prices.

The Democratic Party wants tax reductions to be more targeted towards lower income groups.

Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Western policy against Russia after it invaded Ukraine.

But League leader Matteo Salvini has called for the European Union to shield Italians from the economic side-effects of sanctions imposed on Russia over the invasion.

Polls are open from 0700 local time on Sunday.