By Robin Pomeroy
ROME – Romano Prodi said on Wednesday his victory at Italy’s general election this week was secure despite demands by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for ballot checks, and insisted he was gearing up to take power.
“I don’t have any fe
ar whatsoever that the result will be overturned. It is a clean victory,” Prodi said during a lengthy question and answer session with the foreign press in which he said he would restore “good manners” to Italian politics.
The closest election in Italy’s post-war history saw Prodi win a two-seat majority in the upper house Senate and prevail in the lower house by just 25,224 votes out of 38.1 million cast.
However Italy’s conservative leader, the media tycoon Berlusconi, said he would only concede defeat after disputed ballots have been checked, a position that Prodi mocked.
“It’s a curious situation that Berlusconi protests when he has in his hands all the control, all the transmission of the data, all the technical apparatus,” Prodi said. “It means he doesn’t trust himself, it’s a kind of identity crisis.”
Prodi, who has already been congratulated on his victory by several European leaders, was keen to present himself as prime minister-in-waiting and a ‘good European’.
When asked if he had any ideas on improving Italy’s relations with its EU partners, he answered: “The first would be good manners.”
Berlusconi’s five-year term was marked by a tone of scepticism towards the EU — during a time when Prodi was president of the European Commission — and he famously insulted left-wing members of the European Parliament by calling them “tourists of democracy” in an address to the assembly in 2003.
Prodi said French President Jacques Chirac had called to congratulate him on his victory in a long telephone conversation in which they discussed the future of the EU and that he was about to return a call to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
Many other leaders, from the EU and beyond, had called him, but most had done so on a personal, rather than official, level due to the on-going uncertainties. “Given Berlusconi’s position, there have been some diplomatic hesitations,” Prodi said.
Prodi said he was unlikely to take office before May after a new head of state has been appointed at the end of President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi’s term.
When asked what he saw as the future role for Berlusconi, Prodi said: “That’s a question you should ask him because, in any case whatever I suggested, he’d do the opposite.
“But Italian politics wouldn’t suffer without Berlusconi.”
Prodi left Rome later in the day, catching a train for his home city Bologna, in northern Italy, where supporters are planning a victory party in the evening. — Reuter