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Italy faces turmoil after crucial election

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ROME — Italy faced political paralysis Monday as near-complete results in crucial national elections showed no clear front-runner and raised the possibility of a hung parliament. The uncertainty bodes ill for the nation’s efforts to pass the tough reforms it needs to snuff out its economic crisis and reassure jittery markets.

The chaotic election scenes in the eurozone’s third-biggest economy spilled across the Atlantic to send the Dow Jones index plunging more than 200 points in its sharpest drop since November. A major factor in the murky result was the astonishing vote haul of comic-turned-political leader Beppe Grillo, whose 5 Star Movement has capitalized on a wave of voter disgust with the ruling political class.

That has coupled with the surprise return as a political force of billionaire media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, who was driven from the premiership at the end of 2011, to roil the Italian ballot. Berlusconi’s alliance appeared neck-and-neck with center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani’s alliance for both Parliament’s lower house and the Senate.