Undecided Italian voters are weighing up last night’s televised debate between the country’s top two politicians that featured a last minute tax break offer from the prime minister. Whether that will be enough to swing the forthcoming election Silvio Berlusconi’s way is debatable. But most analysts agree he performed better than in the previous head-to-head with Romano Prodi.
The centre left leader attacked the government on the economy and public finances. He also said Italy needed to regain confidence and reclaim its place on the world stage. In a heated encounter Berlusconi accused Prodi of being a front for the hard left whose members, he said, he would be unable to control if the opposition won the election. After Prodi had compared the prime minister to a ‘drunk clinging to a lampost’, Berlusconi described him as ‘a useful idiot’. But the centre-right leader’s parting shot was to propose abolishing a housing tax. “For us the first house is sacred like the family,” he said. Prodi was regarded as having won the first debate, but this time the overall view from the Italian press was that neither candidate had dealth a knock-out blow. Prodi had a small lead in the most recent polls but the election next Sunday and Monday will be a close-run contest.