Sicily's regional vote is showing a tight race between the center-right backed by Silvio Berlusconi and the populist Five Star Movement. The election is seen as a rehearsal ahead of Italy's national election in 2018.
Italy's center-right looked set to narrowly win over the country's populist party in Sicily's regional election on Sunday, in a vote viewed as a barometer ahead of a general election next May.
Center-right candidate Nello Musumeci looked to have taken around 38 percent of the vote, while Giancarlo Cancelleri of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement looked to have garnered 36 percent, midday projections showed on Monday.
Voter turnout was low at just under 47 percent.
Ex-premier Matteo Renzi's center-left Democratic Party (PD) looks set to garner around 20 percent.
The results are a blow to the PD, which has ruled the island for the past four years. The only solace for Renzi is that the MPD — a far-left party that split from the PD this year — was on track to get around 7 percent.
Still, the results highlight internal feuds within the left that are likely to plague their campaign going into the national election.
Momentum to the center-right?
Musumeci was backed by a center-right coalition of former premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, the anti-immigrant Northern League and the Brothers of Italy.
If the results are confirmed, it would give momentum to the center-right ahead of the national election in May.
However, it remains unclear whether the results can be translated to the national level, with Berlusconi and Northern League leader Matteo Salvini both vying for the leadership.
"Although the center-right is running united, the party leaders haven't campaigned together and the key question of the leadership of the alliance remains unresolved," political analyst Wolfango Piccoli of Teneo Intelligence consultancy told The Associated Press.
The 5-Star Movement has a lead at the national level, according to opinion polls. But it has ruled out taking part in a coalition government and is unlikely to win a majority.
ng, cw/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)