Italy's centre-left poised to win election: Exit polls

ROME (AFP) - Italy's centre-left was poised to win against Silvio Berlusconi on Monday in a key election for the eurozone, but a new anti-austerity party was also set to make major gains, exit polls showed.

The main Democratic Party led by Pier Luigi Bersani and its smaller leftist allies were ahead with between 34.5 and 37 percent, beating the 29 to 31 percent for a coalition led by the scandal-tainted former prime minister Mr Berlusconi.

A projection by the SkyTG24 news channel said the left would manage to win a majority in both chambers of parliament, following fears that it would fail to snag a majority in the upper house Senate.

The newcomer Five Star Movement led by former-comedian-turned-activist Beppe Grillo, who has channelled growing disenchantment with traditional politicians and rising social discontent, was given around 20 percent in the exit polls.

European capitals and the financial markets have been concerned that no clear winner would emerge and stocks in Milan jumped by more than 3.5 percent immediately after the exit polls were released.

A lacklustre turnout however reflected widespread frustration among voters fed up with austerity cuts and a grinding recession.

In the first day of voting on Sunday, turnout was 55 percent - seven percentage points lower than at the same time in the last elections in 2008.

Outgoing prime minister Mario Monti was slated for fourth place according to the exit polls, with only around 10 percent of the vote.