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Exit polls show Pier Luigi Bersani's centre left coalition leading in an Italian election that is testing the country's resolve to maintain painful economic reforms.

Sky Italia said Mr Bersani's coalition took 35.5% of the vote for the lower house of parliament, ahead of the centre-right coalition under former premier Silvio Berlusconi with 29%.

The poll by Tecne' has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5%.


A political movement founded by comic-turned-political agitator Beppe Grillo is projected to take 19% of the vote, while outgoing premier Mario Monti's centrist coalition has 9.5%.

Polls closed at 1400 BST, ending two days of voting.

The Press Association, photo by pdemilia-romagna