Italy faces fraught negotiations to form a government after a general election ended in a hung parliament, amid a surge of anti-establishment and right-wing parties.
After one day of balloting on Sunday, a rightist alliance including former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia emerged with the biggest bloc of votes, with roughly 37%, according to early returns.
The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement saw its support soar to become Italy’s largest single party, with roughly 31% of the vote.
if the results are confirmed, none of the main blocs or groups will be able to rule alone, paving the way for long negotiations and political uncertainty.
Despite overseeing a modest economic recovery, the ruling centre-left coalition came a distant third, polling at around 23% of the vote.
The centre-left was hit by widespread anger over persistent poverty, high unemployment and an influx of more than 600,000 migrants over the past four years.
Former Prime Minister and leader of the Democratic Party Matteo Renzi might resign, Italian media say.
“Bottom line: Italy is far from having sorted its long-standing problems, and now it will have new ones,” said analyst Lorenzo Codogno.
“Be prepared for long and complex negotiations that will take months.”
The surge of populist and eurosceptic movements in the eurozone’s third-largest economy will worry Europe, though neither the 5-Stars nor the League are advocating an exit from the European Union.
5-Star deputy Alessandro Di Battista described the results as a “triumph”, adding: “This is a real moment of glory.
“Everyone will have to come and talk to us.”
The Democratic Party’s Michele Martina, a minister in the outgoing government, said the result was a “very clear defeat”.
“This is very clearly a negative result for us,” he said.
In a surprise result, the right-wing, anti-immigrant and eurosceptic League party of Matteo Salvini surpassed the establishment Forza Italia party, capturing around 18%, while Forza Italia had less than 14%.
According to Rai TV, the coalition would win between 225 and 265 seats in the lower house, far short of the 316 needed for a majority.
Five-Star would get between 195 and 235 seats.