As an acrimonious election campaign enters its final day, Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi has launched a stinging attack on the judiciary and the press, accusing them of endangering democracy and plotting his demise. The centre-right prime minister claimed magistrates invented a corruption case against him to sink his chances at the ballot box.
He also warned that freedom is at risk if the centre-left wins this weekend’s poll. Berlusconi said he had a warning for Italian citizens. “They have to reflect on the future that may arise if these powers, allied with wicked prosecutors, take, beyond the power they already have in key areas of society, a majority in parliament and add to this executive power too,” he told a news conference. The outburst has prompted claims from opponents that the premier is losing his nerve in the face of a likely election defeat. Berlusconi’s coalition has trailed the centre-left in opinion polls for the last two years. Its leader Romano Prodi was quick to respond to his rival’s attack on the legal system. Prodi expressed confidence in Italy’s judicial authorities. Concerning the premier’s claims of a press campaign against him, his challenger drew attention to Berlusconi’s status as a billionaire media mogul. “He has everything in his hands. What is he afraid of?” he asked. “He has all the instruments of control.” As campaigning draws to a close ahead of Saturday’s day of reflection, Berlusconi went one step further, warning that UN observers are needed in the country to prevent possible vote-rigging.