Last Update: 12:27
In the most-watched race in Genoa - controlled by the center-left for more than 50 years - a candidate backed by the anti-immigrant Northern League and Silvio BerlusconiÎ„s Forza Italia party looked set to get 54 percent of the vote.
In all, the center-right looked on track to win 16 of around 25 provincial capitals.
"The wind is blowing for the center-right from the north to the center to the south, this is an extraordinary victory," said Renato Brunetta, the lower house leader of Forza Italia.
The eurosceptic 5-Star Movement performed poorly in the June 11 first-round election and only made it to a run-off in one of the 25 largest races.
Prime Minister Paolo GentiloniÎ„s PD, led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, had hoped to get the support of 5-Star voters but looked set to win in only five of the major contests and lost control in 10 provincial capitals.
"We have clearly lost these elections," said the PDÎ„s lower house leader Ettore Rosato.
More than four million voters were eligible to vote in 110 municipalities where no candidate won more than 50 percent in the first-round election. Turn-out was only 47 percent.
Local elections do not necessarily correspond to politics at the national level, where the 5-Star Movement and PD are neck-and-neck at about 30 percent support, according to polls. Forza Italia and the Northern League are at about 13 percent each, meaning they could present a challenge if they were to unite forces.
"It is clear the outcome is bad for both the PD and 5-Star but it is equally clear that the center-right can only do well if it is united," Wolfango Piccoli, a political risk analyst at Teneo Intelligence, told DW by email. "And the prospects of an alliance between Forza Italia and the Northern League in the general elections are slim."
Given low voter turnout, different electoral systems at the municipal level and local issues dominating voter concerns, he added, it is hard to extrapolate SundayÎ„s results to national elections.
National elections must be held by May 2018 but could be pushed forward to this autumn.
cw/jm (AP, Reuters)