Italy is on course to cementing a historic election result, electing its most right-wing government since World War Two and possibly its first-ever female prime minister.
As voting ended in the national election on Sunday (September 25), exit polls projected a clear win for the conservative bloc led by Giorgia Meloni's far-right Brothers of Italy party.
As leader of the largest coalition party, Meloni is the frontrunner to take over as prime minster.
“It’s important to understand that if we will be called to lead this country we will do that for all. We will do that for all Italians, we will do that with the aim to unify this people, to underline what unifies it rather than what divides it.”
The 45-year-old has often played down her party's post-fascist roots, and instead portrays it as a mainstream conservative group.
She has voiced support for the West's policy in Ukraine, while also promising to crackdown on immigration and reduce taxes.
But her coalition also includes Matteo Salvini's League and Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, the other major players in the country's right-wing politics.
Some Italians expressed a deep feeling of uncertainty in the early hours of Monday.
“What can I say? Unfortunately, first polls are clear and it seems that the centre-right won over the centre-left. An uncertain future awaits us.’'
The result caps a remarkable rise for Meloni, whose party won only 4% of the vote in the last national election in 2018.
This time around, they are forecast to emerge as Italy's largest group with up to 26% of the vote.
But it was not a ringing endorsement.
Provisional data also pointed to a record-low voter turnout in a country that usually sees a high level of voter participation.
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