5-Star bases much of its appeal on fighting corruption, its flagship policy is a "citizens wage" to help Italy's army of unemployed, and it promises a referendum on membership of the euro currency blamed by many for years of economic underperformance.
But the failure to advance to the second round in any of Italy's major cities will be a disappointment for Grillo's party, which has been shown as neck-and-neck with the Democratic Party in nationwide opinion polls.
5-Star hoped to build on last year's election successes, when it took charge of Rome.
With most ballots counted from elections a day earlier in a thousand small cities and towns, the 5-Star Movement imploded in all big races including in Genoa, home of leader-comic Beppe Grillo.
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ROME (AP) - First exit polls indicate candidates from a populist movement did poorly in the main Italian mayoral races, with the leading candidates coming from both the traditional center-right and center-left camps.
Substantial actual results were not expected until sometime Monday morning.
The collapse of that accord seems to have reduced the chances of a snap election in the autumn, but the broad coalition backing Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni is fragile and analysts say an early vote still can not be ruled out.
In all but one of the top cities up for grabs, candidates from center-right and center-left alliances earned berths in June 25 runoffs, since none clinched more than 50 percent of the votes.
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Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the far-right Northern League - long-time allies but with increasingly diverging political agendas - trail with less than 15 percent each.
In the northern city of Parma, its first ever mayor, elected in 2012, is running as an independent after falling out with the party leadership past year, and is favorite to win against rivals from the center-right and center-left as well as 5-Star.
The centre-left was ahead in L'Aquila, while its veteran candidate in the Sicilian capital Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, looked poised to be re-elected at the first round. He led the field on Sunday with the official 5-Star candidate trailing a distant fourth.
General elections must be held by spring 2018, though the four major parties have all expressed a desire for them to be brought forward to the autumn.
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Until last week, Italy's main parties had been trying to pass a new proportional electoral law together, but the deal unraveled.
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