Mr Prodi insists he will lead a strong government
Italian papers express frustration with the uncertainty produced by the general election.
Centre-left leader Romano Prodi claimed victory - but his broad coalition emerged only narrowly ahead of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right bloc.
Massimo Giannini in left-of-centre La Repubblica
An Italy split down the middle, cleaved into two indomitable and irreconcilable halves, politically, culturally and socially... The trap has sprung. And it's like the poisoned sting of a scorpion on the live flesh of a country that from today will perhaps be unable to have a new government, although it will not be able to have the old one either. A perfect metaphor for this Italy... We cannot say that the Prodi era has begun. But the Berlusconi era can undoubtedly be seen to be over.
Paolo Franchi in centrist Corriere della Sera
The trouble is that the Italy of 10 April is not just a country in which the centre-right and centre-left basically share the same consensus, and that whoever wins does so by a hair's breadth. The trouble is that since 1994, when... voters were first asked to decide which of the opposing coalitions should govern, Italy has not come one millimetre closer to having the conditions needed for a modern and civilized two-party system.
Lodovico Festa in Berlusconi-owned Il Giornale
The 2006 vote looked like a done deal: Romano Prodi's victory looked clear-cut and secure. But, alas for the poor columnists so fanatically aligned with the Left, the people make the choices they want and perhaps don't reveal them to the exit pollsters... However the new government is formed, from tomorrow our country will be freer: this broad and united vote will act as a bastion against the contempt of the elitists who do not understand their own people.
Virman Cusenza in centrist Il Messaggero
In what will be remembered as the night of uncertainties, we should start from the only firm point: the polls... can get it wrong. Those rock-like certainties - dressed up in figures and approximations, which for months have painted the match between Prodi and the Cavalier as a sure win for the former - crumbled over the course of a tense night that set emotions swinging and forecasts rollercoasting. The massive turnout - almost 83 per cent - played no small part in the statistical fireworks, a level we haven't seen for years and which puts us top in Europe. It confirms, if that were necessary, that these elections were deeply felt and that voters approached them anxiously.
Federico Geremicca in centrist La Stampa
It was a night that should have brought celebration for some and disappointment for others, but that instead turned into a non-stop thriller for everyone. In short, the result was the one everyone feared the most: a "tie", with different majorities in the two branches of parliament. The outcome: an Italy split right down the middle; that much is clear. But it's also the result of a much-debated electoral law that was strongly backed by the government majority in order to curb the success of the centre-left, which until yesterday polls of all colours were predicting as inevitable.
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