The seemingly unstoppable political force that is billionaire mogul Silvio Berlusconi, who emerged from his latest political foray neck-and-neck with his centre-left rival in the Italian national elections, could finally be grinding to a halt as the political express train finally runs of gas.
Still, the haul of votes won by the former prime minister was hailed by HuffPost Italy as "a remarkable comeback."
Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi exits a booth as he votes in a polling station in Milan, Italy
The victor, in an nail-bitingly close election, is Pier Luigi Bersani's progressive coalition. His centre-left alliance won a majority in the lower house in the election, but have failed to decisively win the Senate, which it must hold to be able to legislate.
Bersani said in a statement: "The center has won the House and votes in the Senate. It is obvious to everyone that this is a delicate situation for the country. We will deal with the responsibilities that these elections have given us in the interests of Italy."
And a former stand-up comedian, Beppe Grillo, who has refused to give interviews to national media, instead preferring comic routines at the expense of the political class at national rallies has scooped up an astonishing haul of votes, with his party "5 Star Movement" neatly capitalising on voter disillusionment.
Italian media dubbed the country "ungovernable" and "a pig's mess". One of the leading broadsheets, Corriere della Sera, quote Renato Balduzzi, outgoing health minister as saying: “The voters have sent unmistakable signals.
"If one in four haven’t voted and the same number voted for a self-declared protest list of candidates, it means that it is absolutely necessary to do something. We hope that the political forces [centre-left and centre-right] have understood this. “
Italian comic-turned-political agitator Beppe Grillo, leader of the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement, delivers his speech during a final rally
Almost a quarter of the country did not vote in the election. The current prime minister, Mario Monti, once dubbed "Super Mario" who fed the country a bitter austerity pill in the wake of the eurozone crisis, trailed a distant fourth.
Berlusconi on Tuesday declared himself open to an alliance with Bersani. "Italy cannot be left ungoverned, we have to reflect," Berlusconi said in a television interview. He ruled out a coalition with Monti, and said the country had "rejected" austerity.
Conversely, Bersani, a former communist, has signalled a willingness to form a coalition with Monti, but the formation of a new government could take days.
According to AP, the shockwaves post-election in the eurozone's third-biggest economy were felt across the globe – sending the Dow Jones index plunging more than 200 points in its sharpest drop since November and causing Tokyo's red-hot benchmark index to sink nearly 2 percent at open.
For a campaign that started as little more than a joke three years ago, comparable to the team of Mock The Week forming a political party led by Frankie Boyle, Grillo's party looks set to become the biggest single party in Parliament's lower house.
Berlusconi is also unlikely to ally with Grillo, his sex life having been the butt of the comedian's jokes for years.
But the party did not rule it out. "Dialogue with Berlusconi? It is very difficult to imagine that Berlusconi would propose useful ideas," said 5 Star Movement candidate Alessandro Di Battista told AP. "It never happened until now, but miracles happen."
With 99.7 percent of the lower house vote counted, the Bersani camp had had 29.55 percent of the vote, to Berlusconi's 29.17 percent. Grillo had 25.54 and Monti's alliance 10.56.
In the Senate, near complete Interior Ministry figures showed Bersani and his allies had nearly 32 percent while Berlusconi and his coalition partners were pulling nearly 31 percent. Grillo had more than 23 percent.
Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the Democratic Party, casts his ballot, in Piacenza, Italy
The election result in Italy is expected to make it harder for the country to pass the reforms it needs to overhaul its debt-laden economy.
Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment at Interactive Investor, warned of increased volatility in the coming weeks after Italian voters served up the worst possible outcome for investors.
She said: "Equity markets have reacted swiftly and severely - giving up yesterday's gains and more.
"While an attempt at a coalition government may yet be made, no overall control seems the most probable outcome, with a second vote likely in the months ahead."
Despite the political posturing, wheeling and dealing, the Italian press are united on one thing they have known for years - never rule out Silvio.