Ex-premier in Italy launches campaign tour
Five years ago Silvio Berlusconi went campaigning on board a luxury liner. On Wednesday, the man who hopes to challenge the billionaire premier at next year's election launched a more modest campaign aboard a truck, reported AP.
Romano Prodi began his campaign Wednesday for the country's first national primaries, a vote that will select a center-left candidate for premiership that he is widely expected to win.
"The primaries are a great chance to discuss politics in depth, to get ready for an electoral campaign that will be very difficult, and one in which money and media won't be on our side," Prodi told supporters in a downtown Rome piazza at the kickoff of the campaign, referring to Berlusconi's personal wealth and media empire.
The primaries are held in mid-October. Until then, Prodi, a former Italian premier and ex-EU Commission president, will travel aboard a big yellow truck to a dozen cities across the country.
Speaking from the truck Wednesday and flanked by Rome's mayor and other center-left leaders, Prodi said his campaign would focus on the economy, welfare, education and the youth.
"The truck will touch the country's problems first hand," Prodi was quoted as saying Wednesday in La Stampa.
But an average truck it is not.
A yellow extravaganza featuring the center-left coalition's rainbow symbol, the truck is equipped with 12 loudspeakers and two screens. Measuring 54 feet long, one of its sides can be swung open to create a platform for Prodi to deliver his speeches in Italy's piazzas.
Prodi went on a bus campaign ahead of a national election in 1996 that swept his center-left coalition to power and him to the premiership. Berlusconi, Italy's richest man, took to the sea aboard the luxury liner ahead of regional elections held across the country in 2000.
The primaries are a novelty for Italian politics, where candidates battling for the premier's office are usually selected by their respective coalitions. Prodi, a strong supporter of the idea, hopes the process will give his diverse coalition a clear and strong leadership.
Among other candidates are a veteran hard-line Communist lawmaker, the Greens party leader and an anti-corruption magistrate turned politician.
"The primaries are a great democratic tool," said Rosanna Carnovale, a housewife who was at the rally. "While I would have liked Prodi to be the center-left candidate right away, I think it's right that the others have their chance, too."
If he wins the primaries, Prodi says he intends to keep the bus for the electoral campaign against Berlusconi's conservatives for the 2006 vote.
The center-left coalition is currently leading in opinion polls. The government's popularity has declined amid slow economic growth and opposition to Italy's involvement in the Iraq war.