Both a centre-right coalition backed by former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi and the populist 5-Star Movement claimed momentum going into a national election next year following the results of Sicily's regional vote.
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi looked poised on Monday for a stunning political comeback as his rightist bloc claimed victory in an election in Sicily that puts it in pole position for a national vote due by next May.
The regional Sicilian ballot, held on Sunday, was seen as a dry run for the national election, with many of the island's problems reflecting those of the country as a whole – high unemployment, a debt mountain and sluggish economic growth.
An influx of migrants, many of whom arrive in Sicily after being rescued in the Mediterranean, was also a key issue.
TRT World's Amber Austin-Wright has more.
A blow to the left
With all of the votes counted, a centre-right bloc backed by the four-time prime minister was more than 5 percentage points ahead of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, with the centre-left – which governs at the national level – a distant third.
"Sicily, just as I asked, has chosen the path of real, serious, constructive change, based on honesty, competence and experience," the 81-year-old said in a video posted on Facebook.
Nello Musumeci, the centre right's candidate for governor of the island, had 39.8 percent of the vote, while the 5-Star's Giancarlo Cancelleri had 34.7 percent. The centre left's Fabrizio Micari was lagging on 18.7 percent.
The result on the island deals a stinging blow to another former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, head of the ruling Democratic Party (PD), which is locked in feuding with erstwhile leftist partners.
After a raft of vote setbacks in recent years, Renzi has many critics inside the PD who may now try to mount a challenge to his leadership.
Defiant in its defeat, the anti-system 5-Star Movement vowed to reach the national government next year, and its leader Luigi Di Maio declared the PD "politically dead."
Opinion polls suggest the centre-right will win next year's national vote, but a recent change to the electoral law is likely to stop any one bloc winning an absolute majority of seats, resulting in political gridlock.
A spent force
The result puts Berlusconi back on the political map after years of sex scandals and graft allegations which had seemed to have reduced the billionaire media mogul to a spent force.
Berlusconi cannot run for office due to a 2013 tax fraud conviction. But he hopes the European Court of Human Rights overturns this ban when it reviews his case later this year, which would pave the way for a possible national challenge.
He returned to the fray after open-heart surgery last year and campaigned actively in Sicily. Even if the courts deny him the chance to run, he would be an influential figure should the centre-right capture power again nationally.