And guess what? Prodi won the debate!
I have only seen parts of the debate (you can watch all of it here), but from what I have seen so far, Il Cavaliere (Berlusconi) talked mostly, as always, about a minimal state and the past:
Il Cavaliere: “We want a state that is not too heavy a burden, that primarily guarantees the citizens’ basic freedom and rights. […] To the left we have a coalition of parties stemming from an old ideology that comes back.”
Prodi replied by addressing Italy’s young generation, saying that country’s growth must be put back on track:
Il Professore: “And growth will only happen if you have a sense for justice and equality. […] All of us must mobilize for schools and jobs and against the insecurity in the workplace. […] That is only possible if solidarity is prevailing.”
Needless to say, I think it is evident that Prodi’s message makes more sense…
Other commentators are stressing that the debate was very (and even too) civilized, that even Berlusconi played by the rules, which did not benefit Berlusconi who is used to talking as long as he wants (hey, he has his own TV-stations).
Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, married to Sweden’s last/most recent conservative Prime Minister Mr. Carl Bildt, even spoke about a new dawn for Italy, meaning that the civilized debate is a sign of a coming regime change where Italy will have to play more by the rules (i.e. with Prodi as PM). Would her husband also vote for Prodi, it sure sounds like she is about to!?
Anyway, there is a second debate on April 3rd and I am not jumping to conclusions yet. I remember an election in 2004 when a right-wing guy with a name beginning with a “B” lost the first debate, but then won a landslide. Let’s hope that Prodi and the Italian center-left manage to do what Kerry and the Democratic Party should have done.