(Bloomberg) -- Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing coalition is set for a narrow defeat in regional elections on the island of Sardinia, the first big electoral blow the alliance has suffered since she became Italy’s premier.

Alessandra Todde, backed by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party, was seen beating Paolo Truzzu, mayor of the island capital Cagliari, with 45.3% of votes with almost all ballots counted Tuesday morning. This was just ahead of Truzzu, her center-right opponent, credited with 45% of votes.

The vote on the island, one of Italy’s five autonomous regions, took on national relevance after Meloni tapped Truzzu from her Brothers of Italy party to stand as candidate for the post of regional governor. Her choice sparked a clash with junior coalition partner Matteo Salvini, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the anti-immigrant League. 

The result is the first sizeable election defeat for Meloni since she took power in Oct. 2022 with her coalition losing a region which has been run until now by Christian Solinas, a pro-independence politician backed by right-wing parties. Salvini had pushed for Solinas as the candidate and criticized Truzzu, who is not particularly liked as mayor, ahead of a campaign dominated by personalities rather than policies.

Todde, a former deputy industry minister in Mario Draghi’s government, claimed victory saying she is very proud to be the first woman to lead the region.

Sardinia accounts for about 2.5% of Italy’s total population. But the vote was closely-watched also as a pointer to possible alliances in future contests including June’s European Parliament elections. 

The leaders of both the Democrats, Elly Schlein, and of Five Star, Giuseppe Conte, flew to Sardinia late Monday in a show of unity.

Nationally, Meloni’s Brothers of Italy is still the most popular party by far. According to a Feb. 24 opinion survey published by newspaper Corriere della Sera, Brothers of Italy leads with about 28.2%, followed by the Democrats at 18.3%. Salvini’s League is at 8.3%.

(Updates with Schlein and Conte in seventh paragraph)

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