No party has won enough votes in Italy's parliamentary elections to govern.
The center-left coalition of Pier Luigi Bersani narrowly beat the conservatives led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in voting for the lower house of parliament.
Bersani's coalition also just won the vote for Senate, but fell short of the majority needed to govern.
While claiming victory, Bersani said Italy is in "a very delicate situation."
The president of the European Parliament called the election results a message of protest against tough austerity policies pushed by some in the European Union. Martin Schulz said the outcome is "a very difficult result for the EU as a whole."
Commentators say government paralysis in the eurozone's third-biggest economy could reignite the eurozone debt crisis.
In a surprise, the populist Five Star Movement secured about one-quarter of the vote.
The party is led by comedian Beppe Grillo, who commentators say was able to tap into the anger and frustration of Italians at the widespread waste and corruption of their political leaders.
The centrist grouping of outgoing technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti ended up fourth.
Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters