The four right-wing parties, including former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, are set to win between 33.5 and 36.5 per cent of the vote, Rai's exit poll said, below the 40 per cent level which would likely avoid a hung parliament.
An exit poll by private channel La7 put Berlusconi's coalition at between 32 and 37.6 per cent and the Five Star Movement between 28.8 and 30.8 per cent. The euroskeptic League, led by Matteo Salvini, is likely to be the coalition's biggest party, making it improbable for Berlusconi's party to lead a center-right government.
Italy holds general elections every 5 years.
The poll result, if confirmed, would represent an unexpectedly strong showing for the Five Star Movement, but it has previously said it will not form a coalition with other parties, leaving the right-wing coalition on top.
Alessandro Di Battista of the Five Star Movement, said: "Everyone is going to have to come and speak to us".
The exit poll and projection shows no party or coalition will be able to claim an outright majority. The vote count will continue throughout the night, with a definitive answer expected at some point on Monday afternoon. "We will start again in opposition", he said.
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In another blow for the European Union, the strongly pro-European and pro-migrants More Europe party, led by former foreign minister and European Union commissioner Emma Bonino, looked short of the minimum 3 percent needed to win parliamentary representation.
The billionaire, who won his first election in 1994, has returned to the limelight at the age of 81 despite a career overshadowed by sex scandals and legal woes.
The campaign was a gloomy one marred by clashes between far-right and anti-fascist activists, as well as a racist shooting spree by an extreme right sympathiser last month.
Former White House adviser Steve Bannon - the man who helped Trump ride a populist wave to power - told the Italian press that a hookup between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the anti-immigration League was "the ultimate dream".
The center-left bloc was predicted to have scored a lowly 22 percent to 23 percent, including about 19 percent for the ruling Democratic Party, or PD, of former premier Matteo Renzi, while the leftist Free and Equals had little more than 3 percent. "Berlusconi, your time is over" was written on the bare breasts of the woman who climbed on a table inside a polling station.
"The middle class no longer exists, the poor are becoming poorer, the rich are becoming richer and there is no social justice", he told AFP.