Could Berlusconi surprise the pundits and pull off an election victory against Romano Prodi in a week’s time? That is the question being asked as the two men aiming to be the next Italian leader go head-to-head in a second television debate tonight. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is thought to have made gains against the centre-left candidate Romano Prodi by criticising his tax policy.
The millionaire businessman claims the centre-left will leave middle class Italians worse off. In particular he has targeted plans to reinstate inheritance tax. Prodi maintains it will only affect the rich: “We’ve written in our programme – reintroduction of inheritance tax, exclusively for the wealthy,” he said in a television interview. The economy and tax are expected to be the key battlegrounds tonight. Prodi was judged to have won the last TV debate, with Berlusconi struggling to meet the strict time limits. Both have undergone intensive coaching as they target undecided voters. It is now against election rules to publish polls, but the most recent surveys gave Prodi’s centre-left alliance a slight lead over Berlusconi.