Meloni set to become Italy's next premier.
Together with the centre-right party of Silvio Berlusconi and the right-wing Lega of Matteo Salvini, the centro-destra bloc looks to have scooped around 44 per cent of the vote - according to exit polls - giving it control of both the senate and chamber of deputies.
Claiming victory in the early hours of Monday, Meloni pledged that the FdI - the only party to remain outside the national unity government of Mario Draghi - would not betray people's trust and would "govern for all Italians", stressing that it was a "time for responsibility".
Exit polls showed the FdI on about 26 per cent of the vote (up from just four per cent in the 2018 election) with Salvini's Lega dropping to almost nine per cent (down from 17 per cent in 2018) and Berlusconi's Forza Italia on about eight per cent.
Based on the provisional results, Meloni's party is well ahead of the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD), led by Enrico Letta, which secured around 19 per cent.
The centro-sinistra alliance of the PD and small left-wing parties obtained 26 per cent of the vote, with the PD coming in for widespread criticism for failing to form a broad left-centrist front to challenge the rise of the right.
The populist MoVimento 5 Stelle (M5S), led by Giuseppe Conte, surprised many by grabbing about 15 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party.
However there was a poor result for the newly formed Impegno Civico (IC) whose members split from the M5S in June: the party obtained less than one per cent of the vote and its leader, foreign minister Luigi Di Maio, failed to get re-elected to parliament.
Conte, who triggered a crisis that led to the fall of Draghi's government in July, said the M5S would fight to retain the contentious welfare policy known as the reddito di cittadinanza, or citizen's income, a scheme the right has vowed to scrap.
The centrist terzo polo or third pole, comprising Carlo Calenda's Azione and Matteo Renzi’s Italia Viva, got less than eight per cent.
The general election on Sunday was hampered by bad weather and voter apathy, with a record low turnout of just 64 per cent, down from 74 per cent in 2018, Reuters reports.
What happens next? President Sergio Mattarella will have the last word on who becomes Italy's next prime minister, with Meloni widely expected to lead the 68th Italian government since world war two.
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