Italy votes in uncertain general election

Today in Italian politics Italy's election has its own emoji

"The most likely outcome is that no coherent parliamentary majority will exist after March 4", Paolo Chiocchetti, fellow of the Robert Schuman Institute of European Affairs at the University of Luxembourg.

"This election campaign has been pretty squalid, including from the Democratic Party (PD), who I voted for", 24-year-old barber Mirko Canali told AFP after casting his vote in Rome.

Five Star's leader Luigi Di Maio broke with tradition by announcing a full list of ministerial nominees ahead of the vote, including many academics with no political experience.

Di Maio is the candidate for the populist, anti-establishment "Cinque Stelle" or "Five Stars" movement, which is leading in the polls.

The voting ends late afternoon and the final result was expected to come out late Sunday night.

The pro-EU Democratic Party led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is polling third.

Still, pollsters predict that former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is can not hold public office until next year because of tax fraud, and his far-right allies will get the largest bloc in Parliament.

"It is unlikely that any of the three main contenders will be able to obtain a majority, but there is only one that can, and it's the right", said Professor Roberto D'Alimonte, director of the political science department of Rome's Luiss University.

He can't hold office for another year due to a tax fraud conviction, but remains president of the Forza Italia party, which is one of several center-right parties most likely to form a coalition government in the election.

The 5-Star Movement had 28 percent, while the center-left coalition had 27 percent, including 23 percent for the Democratic Party.

Heavily indebted Italy is the third-largest economy in the 19-member euro zone and, though investors have been sanguine ahead of the ballot, prolonged political stalemate could reawaken the threat of market instability.

Final pre-election polls showed Berlusconi's coalition in the lead with 37 percent, including 17 percent for Forza Italia and 13 percent for the League Party.

Berlusconi, 81, can not run for office because of a tax fraud conviction, but he has tapped the European parliament president, Antonio Tajani, considered a pro-European moderate, as his pick if the centre-right is asked to form a government.

Berlusconi has called the presence of illegal migrants a "social time-bomb" and pledges mass deportations.

Italy's election "epitomises everything, it is pure populism", Bannon said in an interview with the New York Times last week.

Mr Tajani's moderate profile is aimed at allaying fears in Europe about his populist allies, notably the League, whose leader Matteo Salvini has promised to deport the 600,000 boat migrants who have arrived in Italy over the past four years.

Populist parties have been on the rise across Europe since the 2008 financial crisis, but mainstream parties in Italy have found it especially hard to contain voter anger, with the economy still some 6% smaller than a decade ago and unemployment stuck at around 11%.

They've capitalized on a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment roiling the country in a campaign marked by neo-fascist rhetoric and racist violence, culminating in a far-right extremist wounding six African men in a shooting spree last month.

Some polling stations remained closed in Palermo two hours into election day because the wrong ballots were delivered and 200,000 new ones had to be reprinted overnight.

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