Home > Prodi Wins Italy Primary, Faces Berlusconi
Former Premier Prodi Wins Italian Primary, Will Face Berlusconi in Next Year’s Election
By ALESSANDRA RIZZO
Former Italian premier Romano Prodi won a sweeping victory in a nationwide primary, according to near-final results released Monday, and will challenge conservative Premier Silvio Berlusconi in next year’s election.
The results showed Prodi, the center-left candidate who also is a former European Commission president, won 74.4 percent of the vote. More than 99 percent of votes have been tabulated.
Prodi’s widely expected victory set the stage for a run against Berlusconi, who is likely to remain at the helm of the conservatives for the mid-2006 vote. The two faced each other in an election 10 years ago, which Prodi won.
Berlusconi returned to power in 2001 parliamentary elections.
"This is just the appetizer. Italians will hand him (Berlusconi) the rest at the elections," Piero Fassino, the secretary of the largest center-left party, said.
The election must be held by next spring. No date has been set.
The closest of Prodi’s six opponents in Sunday’s primary Italy’s first held nationwide was veteran hard-line communist Fausto Bertinotti, who won 14.6 percent of the vote.
Prodi has said he would replace Italian troops in Iraq with a civilian force if his coalition wins next year’s election. Italians were largely opposed to the war in Iraq and to Berlusconi’s decision to send some 3,000 troops after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 to help with reconstruction.
The government is gradually pulling some of its contingent out of Iraq.
The primary drew more than 4 million voters to the polls, organizers said. The higher-than-expected turnout gave Prodi a strong endorsement ahead of the elections.
"I’m euphoric," the normally restrained Prodi said, adding the turnout was "beyond our every dream."
He described the high turnout as a vote of protest against policies enacted by Berlusconi’s conservative government especially a new electoral law recently rushed through Parliament and bitterly contested by the opposition.
"If over 4 million people go to the polls it means there’s a great desire for change," Prodi said Monday.