Center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who is ahead in polls ahead of Italy's national vote this month, said state-owned defense group Finmeccanica needs continuity after the arrest of its chief executive earlier on Tuesday.

"Maybe the government should have done something sooner. Now there must be continuity in the management of this large company," Bersani, head of the Democratic Party, said on the sidelines of a rally in Sicily. His spokesman confirmed the comment.

Italy's national election is to be held on Feb 24-25.

Finmeccanica Chief Executive and Chairman Giuseppe Orsi was arrested Tuesday over bribes allegedly paid to secure the sale of 12 helicopters to India when he was head of the group's AgustaWestland unit, a judicial source with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters.

(Reporting by Paolo Biondi. Writing by Steve Scherer.)