Berlusconi Rides Media Blitz, Recession to Gains in Polls

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s media blitz is paying off, with his center-right coalition closing the gap with Italy’s Democratic Party ahead of Feb. 24-25 election.

The three-time premier, who has always been as much showman as statesmen, has done 54 radio and television interviews since Christmas Eve, spending more than 28 hours gabbing on the airwaves, according to a study published today by newspaper La Stampa. Add another 34 hours of news coverage and Italians have been treated to almost three full days of Berlusconi in less than a month.

Support for Berlusconi rose to 27.2 percent from 25.9 percent at the end of December, with backing for the Democratic Party and its coalition allies slipping to 33 percent from 35.5 percent. That left the Democrats lead at less than 6 percentage points, down from 9.6 in December.

In a mix of softball interviews on programs aired by his Mediaset network and mano-a-manos with more aggressive reporters, Berlusconi has lambasted the policies of Mario
Monti’s government, even though he sustained it in power for a year. He’s also shirked any responsibility for the state of the economy in Italy, a country he governed for eight of the past 11 years, excluding his year in the current government.

Monti’s austerity policies may have restored Italy’s international standing after the Bunga-Bunga days of Berlusconi and slashed the yield spread with Germany by about half, still, the deepening recession has soured many Italians on the former economics professor. Monti and his allies had about 16 percent support in the SWG poll.

Berlusconi received more fodder for his attacks against Monti today when the Bank of Italy announced that GDP contracted for a sixth quarter in the final three months of the year, and the central bank cut its forecast for this year to a contraction of 1 percent from a July prediction of -0.2 percent.

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