Matteo Renzi quits after savaging in Italy polls

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Schroders senior European economist Azad Zangana said it was not clear who would lead a right-wing coalition as former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi - former leader of the Forza Italia party - was still banned from front-line politics.

Meanwhile, the right wing alliance - made up of Berlusconi's FI, Matteo Salvini's Lega and Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy, is by far the largest coalition.

Perhaps it is a relief that the right-wing coalition failed to obtain a parliamentary majority, given that it might otherwise be hard to sideline the far-right leader Matteo Salvini in the race for the next Prime Minister. Given the recent changes in Italian electoral law, which now combines proportional representation and the first-past-the-post system, a party or coalition will need at least 40% of the vote to form the government.

Preliminary results released by Italy's Interior Ministry showed the center-right coalition winning about 37 percent of the parliamentary vote and the populist 5-Star Movement getting about 32 percent.

The Euroskeptic, anti-establishment Five Star Movement was the biggest single victor with about a third of the vote, though it will not have enough seats to form a government.

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Despite overseeing a modest economic recovery, the ruling centre-left coalition trailed a distant third at 22 percent, hit by widespread anger over persistent poverty, high unemployment and an influx of more than 600,000 migrants over the past four years.

The result opens the prospect of Berlusconi playing second fiddle to League leader Matteo Salvini.

Di Maio approached the March 4 elections as head of a more traditional party, softening the anti-euro rhetoric and backing off plans for a referendum on Italy's membership of the single currency.

Brexit firebrand Nigel Farage congratulated the Five Star Movement, his allies in the European Parliament, "for topping the poll" as by far Italy's biggest single party. The other big victor in the elections is the League which is also skeptic about Europe and is also an anti-immigrant party.

The 5-Stars had a remarkably strong showing in the south, which has always been a stronghold of the centre-right and Forza Italia. A member of the European Parliament for Lega since 2004, Salvini later began forging connections with French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and their Dutch counterpart Geert Wilders. It was unlikely that any government would push ahead with reforms to address the economy's long-standing weaknesses, whether fiscal, growth related, structural or institutional, they added.

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The Italian elections at the weekend resulted in a hung parliament, although the results show a victory for populist parties at the expense of the more orthodox political class.

Renzi vowed to stay on as party leader until a new government is formed to ensure the Democrats don't lend support to any "extremist" force. But as the first results were trickling in early Monday, 5-Stars leaders started sending another message, saying they expected Italy's parties will have to come to them to work out a deal for government.

In Veneto, where it won 11 per cent of the vote in the last elections in 2013, it captured around 48 per cent this time around. Given both the numbers and ideologies, a 5-Star government supported by elements of the Democratic Party may be the most stable and logical solution to Italy's inconclusive elections.

The Five Star Movement tripled the number of its elected lawmakers in the March vote, becoming the largest parliamentary group, but without enough votes to form a majority government. While the two are rivals, if they joined together, analysts have called that a "nightmare scenario" for the European Union and the financial markets.

Salvini also said he believes his bloc is in a position to rule.

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Founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, 5-Star has sought to allay fears in European Union capitals over its policies, dropping some of its more radical proposals, like leaving North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and promising to be business-friendly if they win power.

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