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Center-left candidate wins Italian primary

Pier Luigi Bersani aims to become prime minister.

Pier Luigi Bersani aims to become prime minister.

ROME — Italians voting in a primary runoff Sunday chose center-left candidate Pier Luigi Bersani to run in next year’s general election, which will decide who will become the EU nation’s next prime minister.

Preliminary results gave Bersani 60.8 percent of the vote, compared with 39.1 percent for Mayor Matteo Renzi of Florence, with two-thirds of the votes counted.

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Renzi, 31, conceded victory to Bersani shortly after the polls closed. ‘‘It was the right thing to try; it was beautiful to do it together,’’ he said in a Twitter message. Renzi had campaigned on a President Obama-style ‘‘Let’s change Italy now’’ mantra that attracted many disgruntled Italians back to politics.

Bersani, 61, the head of the Democratic Party, won the first round of balloting Nov. 25 with 44.9 percent of the vote, to Renzi’s 35.5 percent.

Sunday’s primary has been closely watched because the Democrats have a significant lead in the polls over Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right People of Freedom party in the general election. Berlusconi’s party has been in disarray after the media mogul’s 2011 downfall.

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