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Exit polls show center-left leading national vote

Colleen Barry and Frances d'Emilio, Associated Press

A man casts his vote for the Italian Senate, in Piacenza, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013. Italy votes in a watershed parliamentary election Sunday and Monday that could shape the future of one of Europe's biggest economies. (AP Photo/Marco Vasini)

ROME (AP) -- Exit polls show Pier Luigi Bersani's center left coalition leading a national vote that is testing Italians' resolve to stay the course of painful economic reform.

Sky Italia says Bersani's coalition has taken 35.5 percent of the vote for the lower house of parliament, ahead of the center-right coalition under former Premier Silvio Berlusconi with 29 percent.

The poll by Tecne' has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.

A political movement founded by comic-turned-political agitator Beppe Grillo is projected to take 19 percent of the vote, while outgoing Premier Mario Monti's centrist coalition has 9.5 percent.

Polls closed at 1400 GMT, ending two days of voting. The first projections based on partial vote counts are expected in coming hours.