Rome: Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni has claimed victory in Italy's election, and is on course to become the country's first female prime minister.
Brothers of Italy leader Meloni will be leading the most far-right government since the fascist era of Benito Mussolini since World War II, reported CNN. Addressing the media and supporters in the early hours of Monday morning, Meloni said it was "a night of pride for many and a night of redemption."
"It's a victory I want to dedicate to everyone who is no longer with us and wanted this night. Starting tomorrow we have to show our value ... Italians chose us, and we will not betray it, as we never have," she said.
Preliminary results put an alliance of far-right parties, led by Meloni's Brothers of Italy party, on track to win at least 44 per cent of the vote, according to the Italian Interior Ministry.
With 63 per cent of votes counted, the ultra-conservative Brothers of Italy party had won at least 26 per cent, with coalition partners the League, led by Matteo Salvini, taking around 9 per cent and Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia scoring over 8 per cent.
Final results are expected later Monday, but it's expected to take weeks for a new government to be formed, reported CNN.
Meloni entered Italy's crowded political scene in 2006 and co-founded the Brothers of Italy in 2012, a party whose agenda is rooted in Euroskepticism and anti-immigration policies.
In the last election in 2018, the party won just 4.5 per cent of the vote, but its popularity has soared in recent years, underscoring Italy's longstanding rejection of mainstream politics, seen most recently with the country's support of anti-establishment parties such as the Five Star Movement and Salvini's League.
Meloni differs from coalition partner leaders on the issue of Ukraine. Whereas Berlusconi and Salvini have both said they would like to review sanctions against Russia because of their impact on the Italian economy, Meloni has been steadfast in her support for defending Ukraine, reported CNN.
A 45-year-old mother from Rome, Meloni is deeply conservative, openly anti-LBGT, and has threatened to place same-sex unions, which were legalized in Italy in 2016, under review. She has also called abortion a "tragedy," raising fears for the future of women's rights in the country.
Sunday's snap national election was triggered by party infighting that saw the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government in July.
Voters headed to the polls amid a number of new regulations, with voting hours also contained to one day rather than two.
Other changes included a younger voting age for the Senate and a reduction in the number of seats to elect - down from 685 seats to 400 in the Senate and from 315 to 200 in the lower House of Parliament. That parliament is scheduled to meet on October 13, at which point the head of state will call on party leaders to decide on the shape of the new government, reported CNN.
The buildup to the election was dominated by hot-button issues including Italy's cost-of-living crisis, a 209 billion euro (USD 200 million) package from the European Covid recovery fund and the country's support for Ukraine.
The incoming prime minister - the sixth in just eight years - will be tasked in tackling a number of challenges, with soaring energy costs and economic uncertainty among the country's most pressing.