The Latest: Italian parties await more results to comment

ROME

ROME (AP) — The Latest on Italy’s national election on Sunday (all times local):

3:15 a.m.

With votes slowly trickling in, Italian parties competing in national elections have started calling it a night while they await further results before party leaders make comments.

The mood at the anti-immigrant League headquarters in Milan was euphoric early Monday as projections showed the center-right coalition the party is part of leading the race.

While the center-right bloc so far is lacking the majority needed to govern, a party official told reporters that the League’s strong showing within the coalition was “a clear signal to Europe, which has mistreated Italians.”

Party leader Matteo Salvini has scheduled a news conference for midday.

Salvini has led the party to a remarkable result, jumping from just 4 percent of the vote five years ago to 17.7 percent according to projections, eclipsing coalition partner Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which had 13.3 percent.

The Democratic Party, which heads the current government, was coming in at under 20 percent. Agricultural Minister Maurizio Martina characterized the result as negative.

Party leader Matteo Renzi, Italy’s former premier, has insisted he will stay on as party leader whatever the election’s outcome. Analysts say he might have to resign.

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2:45 a.m.

The latest election projections in Italy have confirmed that a center-right coalition is leading slightly over the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

But other numbers in the RAI State TV projections, if confirmed by final results, will determine the tenor of postelection talks on forming a new government.

They showed Matteo Salvini’s League widening its lead over Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, a center-right coalition partner. The projections give the anti-migrant League 17.7 percent, compared to Forza Italia’s 13.3 percent.

Another finding will worry the European Union, and possibly financial markets. The projections show the two most stridently anti-Europe parties together topping 50 percent of the vote, with the 5-Stars at 32.5 percent and the League at nearly 18 percent.

It is far too early to say if the two parties would join in a coalition.

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This item has been corrected to show the latest projections have Forza Italia with 13.3 percent of the vote, not 4 percent.

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1:05 a.m.

Analysts say early projections from Italy’s election indicate that a hung parliament is the most likely outcome and that the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement’s strong showing may send a negative signal to financial markets.

Wolfango Piccoli of the Teneo consultancy noted early Monday that building a majority in the Italian Parliament “will be hard if not impossible,” and that tough negotiations were expected.

The early projections had the 5-Star Movement as the strongest single party but a center-right coalition comprising three parties was leading overall. Neither had enough of a lead to govern alone.

Economic analyst Lorenzo Codogno, a former Treasury official, said the 5-Star’s showing was better than expected and that “financial markets are likely to take these figures negatively.”

He warned that talks on forming a government would be “long and complex.”

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12:55 p.m.

A top leader of Italy’s 5-Star Movement says if exit poll data prove accurate, it’s an election “triumph” for the populist force.

Alessandro Di Battista, addressing 5-Star supporters early Monday, exulted over indications the anti-establishment movement was the leading party in Italy’s election for Parliament.

But the 30 percent support indicated by a RAI state TV exit poll is far short of the absolute majority needed to form Italy’s next government.

The 5-Star Movement has officially vowed not to join any postelection coalitions. But Di Battista welcomed other parties to come talk as long as they use 5-Star “methods” of “transparency” and “correctness” in political conduct.

One possible partner is the anti-migrant League led by Matteo Salvini. He is dueling with ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi for leadership of the center-right bloc that early projections had as the largest bloc in the new Parliament.

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12:50 p.m.

Projections from Italy’s election indicate that the populist 5-Star Movement was the top party but hasn’t received the majority it would need to govern alone.

RAI State TV’s first projections with 7 percent of the vote counted early Monday showed the 5-Star Movement with 31.8 percent of the vote.

The projection did not look at how coalitions fared in Sunday’s election. The anti-immigrant, euroskeptic League had 15.9 percent of the vote and its coalition partner, former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, came in at 14.2 percent.

The Democratic Party, which is leading the current government, had just 19.6 percent.

An RAI exit poll gave the center-right coalition of which the League and Forza Italia are part a slight edge over the 5-Star Movement.

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11:25 p.m.

Italy’s Interior Ministry says the turnout for the national election was 71.48 percent, a drop from the 75 percent of eligible voters who participated in the 2013 election.

Sunday’s election was held to seat Italy’s next parliament and to choose the parties that will form the next government. Before Election Day, analysts had expressed fears of voters being increasingly disillusioned with the political system.

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11:15 p.m.

An exit poll by Italy’s RAI state TV shows a center-right coalition has a slight edge over the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement in the Italian election.

The exit poll by the Piepoli polling agency on Sunday had the three-party coalition with 33 percent to 36 percent of the vote, compared with the 5-Star Movement’s 29.5 percent to 32.5 percent.

Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League are the two biggest partners in the coalition.

The exit poll’s margin of error of 3 percent puts the two political forces neck-and-neck.

The center-left coalition led by the Democratic Party, currently heading the government, was lagging at 24.5 percent to 27.5 percent.

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11:05 p.m.

An exit poll by Italy’s RAI state TV shows the populist 5-Star Movement leading the Italian election but not with a strong enough lead to govern alone.

The exit poll by the Piepoli polling agency had the 5-Star Movement with between 29.5 percent and 32.5 percent of Sunday’s vote. The Democratic Party was the next largest party, with between 20 percent and 23 percent of the vote, according to the poll.

Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the anti-immigrant League each were polling at between 12.5 percent and 15.5 percent. They were running as part of a three party center-right coalition.

The exit poll has a margin of error of 3 percent.

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4:35 p.m.

Italian authorities are urging voters to leave plenty of time to cast their ballots since the process is taking longer than usual due to new anti-fraud measures.

Voters have complained of long lines — some of more than an hour — at polling stations around the country.

Rome’s city hall urged voters to head out as soon as possible, or at least an hour before polls close at 11 p.m. (2200 GMT) Sunday.

City authorities said the delays were due “in great part” to new anti-fraud measures. Under the new system, each ballot has a serial number that is entered in the registration books alongside the name of the voter who receives the ballot.

After the voter fills out the ballot and seals it, the detachable coupon with the serial number on it is removed and presented to the head of the polling station to make sure it matches the number in the registry.

The polling station chief then deposits the ballot in the box without any identifying information.

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1:25 p.m.

A topless Femen activist has disrupted polling in Italy’s national election while ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi was casting his ballot.

The woman, who had the words “Berlusconi, you’ve expired” written in black marker on her topless torso, jumped onto the table at the Milan polling station as Berlusconi was voting.

Photographers in the room to shoot the scene jostled for position amid the chaos. Berlusconi was escorted out.

News reports recalled that Femen activists disrupted Berlusconi’s vote in 2013 as well.

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12:55 p.m.

Italy’s interior ministry says the turnout for Italy’s general election at noon (1100GMT) stands at 19.3 percent, five hours after polls opened.

Long lines awaited voters in Rome, Milan and other cities, and some voters expressed confusion at the ballots.

It was not possible to compare Sunday’s turnout to Italy’s last general election because the 2013 vote took place over two days.

Some ballot glitches were reported in Palermo, Mantova and in two small towns of Alessandria, where the wrong ballots were delivered. The ANSA news agency said the vote in those towns was suspended when election officials discovered the error after some 40 ballots were cast.

Some Palermo polling stations opened late because of the ballot glitch.

Polling stations were closing at 11 p.m. (2200 GMT)

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12:15 p.m.

Steve Bannon, the nationalist architect of Donald Trump’s White House campaign, says Italy’s election is “crucial” for the global populist movement and that if populists don’t win now they will in the future.

In an interview published in Sunday’s Corriere della Sera, Bannon says he came to Rome to “observe” the election. He says he’s particularly keen to see how the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and anti-immigrant, nationalist League party fare.

He said: “I think if they create a coalition among all the populists it would be fantastic, it would terrify Brussels and pierce it in its heart.”

Bannon, who crafted Trump’s anti-Muslim ban and backs a U.S. border wall with Mexico, said Italians have had enough of Europe’s migrant crisis. Describing himself as a “proud Catholic,” he said Pope Francis had nevertheless “exacerbated the migrant crisis” with his call for Europe to open its arms to refugees.

He said: “The pope is infallible in doctrine, but not in church policy in the world.”

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9:50 a.m.

The outgoing president of Italy’s Senate is voicing concern that some polling stations in Palermo were still closed hours into election day due to delays in getting proper ballots delivered.

In a tweet Sunday, Pietro Grasso said such delays and errors were “unacceptable.” Grasso, who broke away from the Democratic Party to start his own leftist party, said he hoped the problem wouldn’t discourage people from voting.

Overnight, Palermo authorities had to reprint about 200,000 ballots because the wrong ones were delivered. That delayed the opening of some stations.

In Rome, meanwhile, voters complained that the ballots were too complicated to understand.

Sister Vincenza, voting at a polling station on Rome’s Aventine hill, said the process was “all mixed up.” She said: “You feel as if you have gone there prepared but it is not that clear. Anyway, I have to go to Mass.”

— This item was corrected to show that Grasso’s party is left-wing, not center-left.

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8:15 a.m.

The first glitches in Italy’s closely watched elections have started to be reported.

In Palermo, 200,000 ballots had to be reprinted overnight because the wrong ones were delivered. In Mantova, where voters are also voting for the leadership of the Lombardy region, the logo of the Democratic Party regional candidate was printed erroneously.

The ANSA news agency said there would likely be court challenges to the outcome as a result.

More than 46 million Italians were voting Sunday in a general election that is being closely watched to determine if Italy would succumb to the populist, anti-establishment and far-right sentiment that has swept through much of Europe in recent years.

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6:12 a.m.

Polls have opened in Italy in in one of the most uncertain elections in years.

Sunday’s vote is one being watched to see if Italy will succumb to the populist, euroskeptic and far-right sentiment that has swept through Europe in recent years.

The campaign was marked by the prime-time airing of neofascist rhetoric and anti-migrant violence that culminated in a shooting spree last month against six Africans. While the center-right coalition that capitalized on the anti-migrant sentiment led the polls, analysts predict the likeliest outcome is a hung parliament.

More than 46 million Italians were eligible to vote from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (0600-2200GMT), including Italians abroad who already mailed in ballots. Exit polls were expected after polls closed, projections sometime thereafter and consolidated results Monday.

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