- With 99 percent of votes counted by 6pm on Monday, the centre-right bloc had 37 percent, the Five Star Movement had nearly 33 percent, and the centre-left had just short of 23 percent.
- Final turnout was confirmed at 73 percent.
- The League was the biggest party in the centre-right bloc and its leader, Matteo Salvini, said he was committed to forming a coalition with his campaign allies.
- The Five Star Movement is also determined to form a government and said it was open to all partners, though Salvini ruled out an alliance between the two populist forces.
- The Democratic Party's leader, Matteo Renzi, has resigned after an historic defeat.
- You can find all The Local's election coverage, including party profiles, in-depth features, and daily coverage of the campaign, here: The Local's complete guide to the Italian election.
18:40 We're closing this live blog
We're wrapping up this blog for the night, but we'll be back in the morning with more developments as they happen.
18:35 Renzi resigns
Matteo Renzi, the man many hold responsible for the Democratic Party's catastrophic showing, will "obviously" resign as the PD's leader, he announced at a press conference this evening.
Renzi had previously insisted that whatever the election result, he would remain the PD's leader until his term ended in 2021. Yet the party's crushing defeat made his position untenable.
Renzi also stated that the PD would not seek to join a coalition government, saying that "our place in this parliament is in opposition".
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
17:36 The beginning of Italy's 'Third Republic'
Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio has declared the start of a new era in Italian politics.
"Today begins the Third Republic and it will be a republic of Italian citizens," he told the press today. "This is a post-ideological result, that goes beyond the models of right and left: it concerns the great unresolved issues of the nation."
Analysts agree that this election marks the biggest turning point for Italy since the formation of the so-called Second Republic in the early 1990s, when the political landscape shifted drastically in response to far-reaching scandals that hollowed out voters' trust in the major parties.
The term is currently trending on Italian Twitter, with some of the populists' critics implying that it shares more than a number with Hitler's Third Reich.
"This Third Republic isn't born yet and it already seems like a Third Reich."
17:06 Anti-mafia witness elected to Italian parliament
FROM AFP: The widow of a man killed by the Sicilian mafia who has to live under armed protection after turning state witness has been elected to the Italian parliament, official results on Monday showed.
Piera Aiello, 51, had to do her campaigning as a candidate for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement behind closed doors as her face cannot be shown in public for fear of mafia reprisals.
She won almost 53 percent of the vote in her constituency in Marsala in western Sicily, far ahead of her centre-right rival with 26 percent.
Aiello witnessed two mafia hitmen kill her husband, the son of Sicilian mafia boss Vito Atria, in 1991. Atria was shot dead in 1985 and his son, Nicolo', had spoken publicly about wreaking revenge. That was enough for a rival mafia clan to kill him too.
She turned in the killers and provided evidence against dozens of mafia members to crusading prosecutor Paolo Borsellino, who was himself killed in a car bomb attack just months later in 1992.
Aiello has said she decided to run because of the movement's commitment to tackle social inequality and because she wanted her identity back after being forced to move to a different part of Italy.
16:58 The post-election scenarios
All kinds of coalitions seemed possible before yesterday's vote. Now, the options have narrowed.
The right-wing coalition, now led by the League's Matteo Salvini, plans to attempt to form a coalition. But with Salvini ruling out any alliance with the Five Star Movement – the single largest party – is that feasible? And what if no one comes to an agreement?
Here are the possible scenarios we're looking at now that most of the votes have been counted.
16:10 Defeat of the extreme-right
Despite grabbing headlines during the campaign, especially in its final weeks, neither of the neofascist parties CasaPound nor Forza Nuova made it into parliament. With most votes counted, both look to have got less than 1 percent.
CasaPound's leader, Simone Di Stefano, accused the media of refusing to give it air time, and said he was holding out hope that one of the group's candidates would make it into the regional government in Lazio.
15:47 What does Italy's election result mean for the EU?
Italy's election stands to have consequences far beyond its borders, with two parties that have been highly critical of the EU – the Five Star Movement and the League – now dominating the field.
Analysts tell AFP that the rest of the EU is likely to fall into two camps: those who say the answer to rising populism is integrating Europe even further, and those who say any plans for reform must now be put on hold.
That said, they don't think it's likely that a populist government would manage to take Italy out of the EU altogether; it's more likely to remain as a stone in the bloc's shoe. Read the full analysis here.
14:25 Populists triumph in Macerata, scene of a racially motivated shooting
One of the League's most dramatic conquests is the town of Macerata, where one of their former candidates in local elections shot six people of African origin last month. He claimed it was "revenge" for the death of a white Italian woman whose body was dismembered, allegedly by one or more Nigerian immigrants.
The anti-immigration party won just 0.6 percent – fewer than 200 votes – in Macerata last time, but in yesterday's election it shot up to just over 21 percent. The Five Star Movement, meanwhile, won almost 32 percent.
The woman's death followed by the shooting made the town a national flashpoint for immigration issues, which had already been dominating the campaign. The parties that took the bluntest tone on migration appear to have been the main beneficiaries.
14:07 How could the election results affect Italy's economy?
A long period of uncertainty as Italy's political forces scramble to form a viable government could jeopardize its fragile economic recovery.
But advisory firm Oxford Economics isn't changing its forecast just yet: "For now, we are holding fire on making any changes to our Italian forecast for growth of 1.5 percent this year and 1.1 percent in 2019 but we will once the dust has settled and the identity of the government has been confirmed," its analysts say.
Last year Italy recorded its highest GDP growth since 2010, but "the fact that the centrist and more moderate parties have not performed well means that the next government will likely not take advantage of the current positive economic climate to ‘bank’ a more meaningful reduction in the country’s debt – still the second highest in the eurozone after Greece," Oxford Economics said.
However, the firm suspects that "many of the more populist fiscal proposals are likely to be abandoned, as they simply do not stand up to scrutiny.
"And while this may help Italy’s public finances, the risk is that it will be the EU that ends up taking the blame, undermining any further European integration championed by Germany and France."
13:50 Five Star Movement: 'Our responsibility to form a government'
The Five Star Movement said on Monday it "feels the responsibility to form a government for Italy" after winning more votes than any other single party.
"This election was a triumph for the Five Star Movement. We are the winners," the party's leader Luigi Di Maio told a news conference.
He said his party was ready to open discussions "with all political actors" to help form a majority.
12:50 Renzi to quit: reports
Matteo Renzi, the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, is resigning after disastrous losses for his party, the Ansa newswire reports.
Ansa cites an "authoritative party source", though Renzi's spokesperson would not confirm it. The PD leader is set to speak at 5 pm today.
11:48 Salvini: 'My right to form a government'
The League's Matteo Salvini said on Monday that his right-wing coalition had the "right and the duty" to form a government after taking 37 percent of the vote in the weekend election.
"This is an extraordinary victory," the leader of the anti-immigrant League party told a press conference in Milan.
The eurosceptic leader said that he would hold talks "in the coming hours" with the rest of his coalition and was "committed to the deal" that whichever party came away with the most votes would nominate the future prime minister.
Salvini ruled out the possibility of a potential anti-establishment alliance between the League and the populist Five Star Movement, saying that he would not form a "minestrone soup" government, made up of different ingredients.
10:25 Reaction from Europe's far-right and populist parties
More than half of the Italian electorate voted for populist parties, the latest projections are showing.
Across Europe, leaders of other populist parties are celebrating the result.
La progression spectaculaire et l'arrivée en tête de la coalition de La Ligue emmenée par notre allié et ami @matteosalvinimi est une nouvelle étape du réveil des peuples !— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) March 5, 2018
Chaleureuses félicitations ! 👏🏻 MLP#Elezioni2018 #Italie🇮🇹
The spectacular progression of the League, led by our ally and friend Matteo Salvini, and its arrival at the head of the coalition, is a new stage of the people's awakening! Warm congratulations!
Congratulations to my colleagues in the European Parliament @Mov5Stelle for topping the poll tonight.— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) March 5, 2018
10:22 Big names of the centre-left unseated
Earlier we reported that PD Interior Minister Marco Minniti had lost his seat to the Five Star Movement.
It's now clear that almost half of the PD ministers have lost their seats in the election which saw the party's share of the vote tumble to below 20 percent.
As well as Minniti, Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti, Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, and Claudio De Vincenti, who is Minister for Territorial Cohesion and Southern Italy, have all missed out.
Big names in the party who have kept their seats include current PM Paolo Gentiloni, Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, and party secretary Matteo Renzi.
10:05 Latest seat projections
Here are the latest projections for seats in Italy's two houses of parliament, from pollsters YouTrend.
🇬🇧🇺🇸 New seats projection, Chamber (630 seats):— YouTrend (@you_trend) March 5, 2018
5 Star Movement 231 seats
Democratic Party 105
Forza Italia 99
Brother of Italy 32
LeU (left) 15
Oth. Cen-left 8
Oth. Cen-right 5#ItalyElection#MaratonaYouTrend
These projections confirm what was shown in the first exit polls: the Five Star Movement, long kept out of government, have grown into a political force that will be hard to ignore, while the centre-left is severely weakened.
But while the exit polls showed the League and Forza Italia neck-and-neck, it's looking like the League will emerge the dominant party in Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right bloc.
10:00 Italy 'feels abandoned by Europe': French minister
From AFP: The surge of populist parties in Italy's election shows the extent to which the country on the frontline of the migrant crisis "feels abandoned by Europe", France's European affairs minister said on Monday.
Italy "is a country that has faced the biggest influx of migrants in its history and has felt alone, abandoned by the European Union," minister Nathalie Loiseau told France Info radio.
"It is striking how this country, a founding member of the European Union, is gripped by disappointment with Europe," she added.
"It shows that, across Europe, traditional parties are tired," said Loiseau, one of the many first-time ministers in the cabinet of France's Emmanuel Macron, who is himself a relative newcomer to politics.
But she also warned against giving into "doom-mongering", pointing to "good news" in Germany, where the centre-left ratified a coalition deal with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, ending a long stalemate.
09:49 Interior Minister unseated
Interior Minister Marco Minniti has come third in his constituency of Pesaro in the March region. He's lost his seat to the Five Star Movement, which looks to have scooped 32 percent of the vote.
An ex-communist and spymaster, Minniti has widely been praised for his efforts in stemming migration flows to Italy and last August one poll showed he was the most popular politician in the country.
09:33 Italian stocks slide after vote
From AFP: Italy's stock market slid at the start of trading on Monday following the country's unclear election outcome, with Europe's other main indices mixed.
The FTSE MIB in Milan opened down almost 2.0 percent before quickly recovering part of the ground to show a loss of 1.0 percent at 21,694 points.
Germany's DAX 30 index shed 0.5 percent to 11,856 points as investors assessed the country's own new coalition, while in Paris the CAC 40 lost 0.2 percent to 5,127.68.
Outside the eurozone, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index edged up 0.1 percent to 7,074.26 points compared with the closing level on Friday.
08:55 'What a mess'
Italian and international media are dissecting the results and trying to work out what the vote means for Italy and Europe. Italian daily Il Tempo opted for the headline 'What a mess'.
CHE BORDELLO #Centrodestra in testa, boom #M5S ma non c'è maggioranza Nel #Lazio sfida all'ultimo voto tra #Parisi e #Zingaretti La #Lega supera #ForzaItalia Il calcio piange #DavideAstori Ecco la nostra #primapagina #buongiorno #Elezioni4Marzo2018 #elezioni2018 pic.twitter.com/sGOoRcQ6dZ— IL TEMPO (@tempoweb) March 5, 2018
Take a look at how press around the world have reacted to the election in the link below:
08:45 A closer look at Italy's populist parties
The big winners of yesterday's vote seem to be Italy's Five Star Movement, projected to win around 32 percent of total votes, and the League, which according to the latest projections has beaten its coalition partner Forza Italia, shifting the power balance of the bloc.
Here's some useful background on both parties, their leaders, and the recent changes they've both undergone.
08:05 'Populism won here'
More than half of all votes have now been counted, and Italy is waking up to the prospect of a hung parliament. A centre-right coalition looks set to win the most votes, but no majority -- and around 50 percent of voters opted for populist parties including the Five Star Movement, League, and Brothers of Italy.
"The March 4th vote yielded a result that Europe was afraid of and Italy perhaps did not expect on this scale," columnist Marcello Sorgi wrote in La Stampa daily.
"Defeated everywhere else in Europe, populism won here. Either it can govern or it will block the system."
07:42 Renzi to resign?
From AFP: "Italy's ruling centre-left Democratic Party on Monday admitted it had suffered a "clear defeat" in a general election after coming in third according to projections.
"This is a very clear defeat for us," Michele Martina, a minister in the outgoing government, told reporters.
"We are expecting a result below our expectations... This is very clearly a negative result for us," he said.
A centre-left coalition led by the Democratic Party was projected to score just 23.1 percent, after the main right-wing alliance at 35.5 percent and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement at 32.5 percent.
Maurizio Martina (L), Agriculture Policies Minister and member of the Democratic Party (PD), addresses journalists flanked by Matteo Orfini, president of the PD. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
"Voters have spoken very clearly and irrefutably. The populists have won and the Democratic Party has lost," Andrea Marcucci, one of the party's lawmakers in the outgoing parliament, wrote on his Facebook page.
"The party leaves Italy with much better (economic) results than those that came before. We will start again in opposition," he said.
The AGI news agency said party leader Matteo Renzi was now considering resigning -- a possibility he had previously ruled out even if his party lost.
07:30 Italy voted, now what?
Yesterday, Italians went to the polls and cast their votes in the country's general election.
Exit polls showed Italy was heading for a hung parliament, with a surge in votes for populist and far-right parties. Votes are still being counted, with full results expected later today, and we'll be bringing you the latest updates and reaction on this blog.
Catch up on our election coverage so far by clicking the links below.
- AS IT HAPPENED: The Local's live blog of the Italian election
- Berlusconi's rightwing coalition ahead, but short of majority: exit polls
- 12 pictures that tell the story of the Italian election campaign
- Analysis: What can we expect after the election, and how did we get here?
- 17 of the most memorable quotes from the Italian election campaign
This blog is being run by The Local's Europe Editor Catherine Edwards, with agencies. Head to our Twitter or Facebook pages to join in the discussion, or get in touch directly at email@example.com.