Far-right, populist surge leaves Italy in limbo

Renzi The down and out former darling

Pro-immigration advocates are sounding alarm over such sentiments and the rise of the far-right movement in Italy and Europe.

Five Star movement is expected to take 216-236 seats.

But the biggest victor on Sunday was the 5-Star Movement, which was predicted to have won a third of all votes cast, up from 25% last time around, putting it in the driving seat in any future coalition talks.

News across the Continent centered mostly around the Italian election, which took place Sunday and left the country in limbo as the anti-establishment 5Star Movement and far-right League surged but no party or established coalition won a majority.

In a stinging defeat for Berlusconi, the anti-immigrant League party headed by Matteo Salvini emerged as the strongest movement within the coalition, taking nearly 18 percent of the vote compared to Berlusconi's 14 percent.

Claudio Borghi, the League's economics chief, on Monday suggested a centre-right headed by Salvini could find a modus vivendi with 5-Star, while senior 5-Star member Riccardo Fraccaro said nobody would be able to govern without his party.

The president and his team will speak to party leaders over the coming weeks, urging them to put the tensions of the campaign behind them and seek ways to form a majority, the official said.

Italy's populists - like those in Austria in their recent general election - had to back away from earlier promises to pull out of the euro currency.

The turnout figures are in line with the constitutional reform referendum in December 2016, when overall 65.5 percent of the nation voted.

And together with other populist and far-right movements, Sunday's vote shows they could well move from the fringes of the European legislature to dominate debate after the EU-wide elections of May 2019.

In an upset, the results showed the right-wing, anti-immigrant and euroskeptic League party of Matteo Salvini surpassing the longtime anchor of the center-right, the Forza Italia party of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

But Five Star, which before Monday insisted on going it alone without forming a coalition, is expected to emerge as the largest single party in Italy's lower house, with 216-236 seats.

The leading party was the Five Star Movement (M5S). It has fed off public fury over entrenched corruption and economic hardship.

The ruling centre-left bloc was seen on around 22%.

The shock result has been compared to Trump's sensational win in the 2016 United States election, which was fuelled by an anti-immigration "America First" message, and the UK's historic Brexit vote.

The PD also paid the price for widespread anger over an influx of more than 600,000 migrants over the past four years. Plus, the economy has tanked and in 2016, "some 18 million people were at risk for poverty, and unemployment is now at 11%".

The role reversal marks a bitter personal defeat for the billionaire media magnate and his party, which took more moderate positions on the euro and immigration while the League campaigned on a fiercely anti-migrant ticket. A hung parliament is when no party or coalition controls an absolute majority of legislators.

Patrizia Calcaterra, a 52-year-old teacher and 5-Star voter in Sicily, where 5-Star took nearly 50 percent of the vote, said her joy about 5-Star's performance was tempered with concern about the rise of the League. But now Matteo Salvini has laid claim to that role. The other big victor from a ballot that will shake the rest of Europe was the hard right, populist Northern League, riding a wave of alarm in Italy over the arrival in recent years of hundreds of thousands of migrants.

"My first words: THANK YOU", tweeted League leader Matteo Salvini as projections rolled in.

A 2013 conviction for tax fraud means that he can not hold public office and he has put forward Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, as his candidate for prime minister.