There has been no Easter holiday in the war of words over Italy’s general election.“The longer the torment, the sweeter the victory,” centre-left leader Romano Prodi said, referring to Silvio Berlusconi’s continued refusal to accept defeat. But it is an argument the outgoing Prime Minister and some of his supporters do not seem to buy. One of Berlusconi’s Northern League allies is now claiming that more than 45,000 votes cast in Lombardy are invalid because of a technical irregularity. Berlusconi has ruled out conceding before the country’s Appeal Court confirms his defeat. Of Prodi’s refusal to accept a grand coalition, he said “I offered a way out, he replied with a slap”. Berlusconi’s strategy is perhaps best explained as a preparation for a future comeback. Although Prodi will almost certainly form the next governement, he may yet have difficulty holding together a coalition which will include hard-left elements. Should he run into difficulty, Berlusconi will be able to claim Prodi’s mistake was to refuse his overtures.