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Stalemate in Italy poll, 5-Star advances

Stalemate in Italy poll, 5-Star advances

Italian voters have cast their ballots in a general election.

The four right-wing parties, including former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, are set to win between 33.5 and 36.5 per cent of the vote, Rai's exit poll said, below the 40 per cent level which would likely avoid a hung parliament.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) received some 29-32 per cent of the vote in the Senate and 29.5-32.5 per cent of the vote in the Chamber of Deputies, the largest of any single party, with the group - founded in 2009 - getting support from people fed up with adverse economic conditions and corruption within the eurozone's third largest economy. The Five Star Movement is likely to win a third of the votes. The vote share won by the challenger party easily outstripped those of any other party, but the Five Star Movement, led by Luigi Di Maio, has declared it will not go into a coalition.

Berlusconi, a flamboyant three-time former prime minister, can not hold elected office because of a fraud conviction but has put forward European Parliament President Antonio Tajani as his prime ministerial nominee.

The exit poll and projection shows no party or coalition will be able to claim an outright majority.

Immigration was thrust into heart of the election campaign by the brutal killing of a teenaged recovering drug addict blamed on Nigerian immigrants.

The murder prompted a racist "revenge" gun rampage by a fascist sympathiser, who shot and wounded six Africans.

The national turnout in the last general election in 2013 was 75 percent. Berlusconi, a three-times prime minister, has returned to the limelight despite a political career overshadowed by sex scandals and legal woes.

If no grouping wins an overall majority, analysts say one scenario could be a grand coalition between the ruling centre-left Democratic Party and Berlusconi's Forza Italia - a prospect that would reassure investors.

Forza Italia would be joined by the Northern League, a stridently anti-immigrant party led by Matteo Salvini, who has said Italy should leave the euro currency, along with two other, smaller right-wing parties.

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