The first television duel forming a key part of the Italian election campaign has taken place. The much-heralded studio encounter between Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his left wing rival Romano Prodi was the first time the two had debated live on TV in a decade.
Berlusconi poured scorn on Prodi the former head of the European Commission. “I can’t take his election pledges seriously because he is running a coalition which could collapse at any moment. His parliamentary support amounts to only 5 MP’s. He is just a facade, last time he was in government it only took the withdrawal of one of the parties for his administration to fall apart. Its like watching the repeat of a bad movie”. The programme was strictly managed along the lines of a US presidential debates. The format gave little opportunity for the contenders to generate much passion. Prodi concentrated his fire on the poor economic record of the Berlusconi government: “We have had enough of empty promises. Growth was supposed to be at 2.5 percent but in the last few years it’s been at zero. We can’t carry on like this, we need proper economic management of this country”. The two contenders blamed each other for the prices rises which followed the introduction of the euro in 2002. A significant part of the electorate has yet to make up its mind how to vote in the elections on April 9 and 10th. A second TV debate is due a week before the poll.