It was all smiles at first as a Silvio Berlusconi stricken with a bad back made a surprise limping entrance to the Italian Employer’s federation conference.
After drawing jeers from parts of the crowd the Italian Prime Minister got to his feet, and ignoring the mediator’s appeal to follow the rules of debate, launched into a dramatic diatribe against his opponents. These included some people present, whom he accused of either “losing their heads”, or having “skeletons in their cupboards”. With less than a month to go, Berlusconi’s coalition trails in most opinion polls. The opposition coalition’s Romano Prodi has been bouyed in the polls after what was regarded as a good performance against Berlusconi in their head-to-head television debate. He shrugged off Berlusconi’s performance: “I think we need an electoral campaign with different, more concrete declarations, we don’t need meaningless slogans”. With zero growth last year for the second time in three years Italy’s economy may be central to April’s election result.