Berlusconi’s Bravado Rings Hollow on the Eve of Italian Election

By John Follain

  Silvio Berlusconi speaks during a press conference in Rome, on March 1.  Photographer: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

Silvio Berlusconi speaks during a press conference in Rome, on March 1.
Photographer: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told supporters in Rome that his four-party coalition will win a majority in Sunday’s election but the body language of his allies suggested there was little conviction in the forecast.

At their only joint appearance of the election campaign, Berlusconi, 81, and his center-right partners insisted they will govern for the next decade and glossed over the infighting that has marked their alliance.

“We’re satisfied with how the campaign has gone and we have very valid reasons to believe we will reach a majority and form the government Italy needs,” proclaimed Berlusconi

As he spoke, Matteo Salvini of the euroskeptic League and Giorgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy sat either side of him, tapping on their cellphones.

Polls before a blackout kicked in on Feb. 17 showed the center-right will be the biggest bloc after the election but some way short of a majority.

Berlusconi’s Appeal

Undercutting his confident prediction, Berlusconi asked supporters to reach out to undecided voters and any acquaintances tempted not to vote. He read out an appeal they should use, promising to cut taxes, raise pensions and kick out undocumented immigrants.

Meloni insisted the alliance must stick together if it fails to win a majority amid speculation that Berlusconi could ditch his current allies to forge a so-called grand coalition with the center-left Democratic Party. Salvini said the center-right would govern “not for five years but for ten.”

Berlusconi repeatedly interrupted both their speeches to crack jokes or add his own comments.

The alliance has been plagued from the start by disagreements over policy and rivalry between Berlusconi and Salvini.

Even as they attempted a last-minute show of unity, the logos for their two parties on the backdrop both proclaimed their man would be premier.

Source: www.bloomberg.com

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