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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 March 2006, 13:00 GMT
Press divided by Italy TV debate
Silvio Berlusconi (left) and Romano Prodi
Both candidates want to win over undecided voters
The Italian press was divided over who came out on top after a live television debate between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his general election opponent Romano Prodi.

It was the first time the two had debated on television since the 1996 elections, won by Mr Prodi's centre-left coalition. Italy goes to the polls on 9 April.

LA REPUBBLICA (left-leaning daily)

This first electoral challenge was won by Prodi, partly through his own merits.

Within the limits of what was possible, the Professor [Prodi] tried to convey to those listening to him a positive message, and above all one geared towards the future.

He attempted to give a sign of hope to an exhausted country... But the Professor won mainly because of the Cavalier's [Berlusconi] defects... Imprisoned within a framework of rigid rules... the prime minister became a wounded animal, who fidgeted and communicated only tension, nervousness and impatience.

IL CORRIERE DELLA SERA (leading national daily)

Who was more effective? Sporting terminology would suggest a classic nil-nil draw... One of them tried to come across as trustworthy but a rogue, the other as nice but stubborn.

Authoritativeness is a different matter, but then it is hard to expect this in an ice-cream parlour. Neither of them made us dream, but for once the rules worked.

IL MESSAGGERO (Rome daily)

Prodi on the attack, Berlusconi on the defensive

LA STAMPA (national daily)

Prodi leads, Berlusconi follows

IL GIORNALE (owned by Berlusconi's brother)

Throughout their lengthy confrontation before the TV cameras... the prime minister appeared more concrete, providing plenty of data and figures. In contrast, the Union's [opposition coalition] candidate appeared evasive and vague.

L'UNITA (leftwing daily)

Romano Prodi won the debate by presenting himself as a true man of government. He spoke with authority and conveyed an air of seriousness and rigour that the Italians had forgotten. Helped by specific and relevant questions, he outlined the key points of the Union's programme for making the country grow.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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