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Last Updated: Monday, 13 February 2006, 01:13 GMT
Berlusconi says 'I am like Jesus'
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Berlusconi at an election rally
Berlusconi has also likened himself to Napoleon, drawing warnings that he might meet his Waterloo
The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has caused a political storm by comparing himself to Jesus Christ.

And last week, the prime minister compared himself to Napoleon in describing his achievements during his past five years in office.

His comments came at a dinner for supporters, ahead of elections.

Mr Berlusconi is trailing his challenger, Romano Prodi, in opinion polls prior to April's vote.

His Napoleon remark caused some ironic comment and scornful remarks from opposition leaders, some of whom warned him that he might soon meet his Waterloo, the name of the decisive battle in which Napoleon was defeated by the British.

"No, I was just joking," Mr Berlusconi told his supporters at a dinner at Ancona on the Adriatic coast.


But then he went on to complain that he feels like what he called "the Jesus Christ of Italian politics".

"I'm a patient victim. I put up with everything. I sacrifice myself for everyone," he said.

Opposition politicians called Mr Berlusconi's comparison grotesque, although he was simply using popular speech.

In Italian, for example, you can refer to someone as a Povero Christo, or a poor Christ, without being accused of blasphemy.

Opinion polls suggest that Mr Berlusconi, the owner of a vast media empire, is trailing his challenger, the opposition leader Romano Prodi, by up to five percentage points despite his recent barrage of personal appearances on television and radio.

But the prime minister says he does not believe the main polling organisations. He's commissioned his own poll which shows him slightly in the lead.

Huge election posters urging voters to cast their ballots for Mr Berlusconi already adorn the streets of Italian cities.

Some of them in Rome are already covered with ironic graffiti in local dialect. There is a tradition here dating back centuries of writing political satire on walls.

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