Page last updated at 13:22 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 14:22 UK

Wife's poll rage hits Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi and his wife, Veronica Lario in 2004
Mr Berlusconi and his wife have had public arguments before

Italy's prime minister and his wife have clashed publicly after reports his party planned to field attractive young women as European election candidates.

Veronica Lario said the plan amounted to "shameless rubbish" being put on "for the entertainment of the emperor".

Silvio Berlusconi said she had been misled by left-wing media reports that TV stars, actresses and an ex-beauty queen were among potential candidates.

But only one of the so-called "show girl" candidates made the party list.

Ms Lario vented her feelings in an email to the Italian news agency Ansa, which was then picked up by the national newspapers.

She said it was "to entertain the emperor" that beautiful young women were fielded to stand as candidates for Mr Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party in June's European Parliament election.

I want to make clear that my children and I are victims and not accomplices in this situation. We must bear it and it causes us to suffer
Veronica Lario

"But behind the facade of curvaceous feminine beauty, what is even more serious is (Mr Berlusconi's) impudence and lack of reserve" she continued, it offends "the credibility of all women".

Mr Berlusconi later told reporters that he was sorry his wife had apparently believed "what she read in the papers".

He said his party was aiming to select female candidates because "we want to renew our political class with people who are cultured and well prepared".

Candidates standing for the PdL would be unlike the "malodorous and badly dressed people who represent certain parties in parliament", Mr Berlusconi added.

Ms Lario, who is Mr Berlusconi's second wife and herself a former actress, said she wanted to make clear that "my children and I are victims and not accomplices in this situation".

"We must endure it and it causes us to suffer," she added.

It was later announced that Barbara Matera - an actress, TV announcer and former Miss Italy contestant - was the only one of the "showgirl candidates" as the Italian media dubbed them to have made the final list.

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