The angry reaction from the Berlusconi camp to Prodi’s claim of victory suggests the centre-right is not ready to give up without a fight.
“Seeing as there’s such a narrow gap between the two we demand that a scrupulous verification of the vote counting be carried out,” said Berlusconi spokesman Paolo Bonaiuti.
With the political colours of the next Italian government being decided by a few thousand votes, the centre-right appears to be pinning its hopes on a legal challenge and the grey area of spoilt ballots.
Berlusconi is yet to give his assessment of the situation. At one point last night it looked as if the Prime Minister’s attacks on opposition tax policies during the campaign had paid off, while now his dreams of winning another term in office are fading.
The next government is not expected to take over for at least a month, during which time the parliament should nominate a successor to the Italian President, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, whose mandate expires in May.