Da The Guardian del 05/04/2006
Originale su http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1747069,00.html

A dull and dirty campaign

Silvio Berlusconi is as famous for being a media magnate as he is for being Italy's prime minister and his final TV debate with Romano Prodi before this weekend's general election turned out to be a political version of It's a Knockout - though without a clear result. The Forza Italia leader was deemed to have done marginally better than in the previous round against his rival from the centre-left alliance, but the most recent polls (frozen by law two weeks before the big day) showed him still lagging three to five points behind. Mr Berlusconi pulled off a tactical coup by announcing an end to the equivalent of council tax in the final seconds of the debate, so Mr Prodi was unable to respond.

Strategic coherence is another matter as thousands of mayors were left wondering how they would finance public services. Politics is not a glittering game show, even if the man his supporters call "Il Cavaliere" behaves as if it is. In a campaign fought against a dismal background of a stagnant economy, a mounting budget deficit and growing inequality, voters have been hard pressed to make a clear choice. Both contenders are tired old faces who seem to have little to offer.

Mr Berlusconi, despite his nickname, has not been chivalrous: having decided that the best form of defence is attack he has savaged his detractors, stormed out of a TV studio spouting abuse, pandered to anti-immigrant sentiment and accused Chinese communists of boiling babies to make fertiliser. Brussels-bashing is an ingrained instinct. A slick free magazine, The True Story of Italy, has failed to provide the requisite gloss on his five years in power. Yesterday he plumbed new depths of vulgarity by calling opponents coglioni, which translates as dickheads. Things have got so acrimonious that the US last week warned visitors to Italy of the risk of election violence - not great news for a government which supported George Bush over Iraq.

Mr Prodi has been as uninspiring as only an economics professor can be. But the former European commission president, with no party of his own, holds together a fractious 13-member alliance ranging from Catholics to communists. He has some good ideas for boosting tax revenues by tackling the black economy and restoring inheritance tax. He will also quickly withdraw Italian troops from Iraq. Undecided voters - 23% when opinion polls closed - will decide this election. Italy without Mr Berlusconi in charge would be less colourful. But Mr Prodi would be a welcome improvement. Europe would be rightly relieved.

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