April 10, 2006

BERLUSCONI DEFEATED? MAYBE YES, MAYBE NO (Updated--Exit Polls Exaggerated Berlusconi's Defeat)

Based on the first exit polls released at 9:00 AM EST, DIRELAND's Rome correspondent Judy Harris -- a veteran ex-pat journalist and a former Italy staffer for the Wall Street Journal and TIME magazine -- delivered the good news: Silvio Berlusconi appeared to be toast! (well, maybe...see the last two updates below on errors in the exit polling and the tightening of the real-vote results  -- it ain't over yet):

ROME -- The very first exit poll released Monday placed Romano Prodi¹s "Unione" Berlusconi_worried_3 center-left coalition sufficiently ahead of the "Casa della Liberta" (House of Liberty) headed by multi-billionaire Premier Silvio Berlusconi (left) to make a victory by Romano Prodi (right) Prodi_4 appear a virtual certainty. It appears also that the center-left has captured the Italian Senate as well as the lower house of parliament in this election -- the first to use proportional representation in 13 years.
    At precisely 3:01 Monday, one minute after the polls closed, the polling company Nexus, which utilized some 3,000 pollsters around the country, released results showing the Union figure ranging from 50% to 54% versus Berlusconi¹s 45% to 49%. The exit poll's margin of error is just 2%.
  Ulivo_logo  Prodi¹s own party, the Ulivo (Olive Tree, logo left), figured at from 30.5% to 33.5% of voters nationwide, about five points ahead of Berlusconi¹s Forza Italia. These figures from exit polls are in line with poll results during the long and tense election campaign.
   The Green party had 3% of the vote, and the Rosa nel Pugno Rose_in_the_fist_1 (Rose in the Fist -- new name of the revamped Radical Party, logo left), between 2.5% and 4%. Rosa nel Pugno party officials reported a few minutes ago, however, that their own projections show 5%. Rifondazione Comunista (
logo right), which fielded, among others, transgendered gay rights Rifondazione_logo leader Vladimir Luxuria as a candidate, is expected to have over 5%.
    Final turnout was high at percent of the over 47,000 eligible to vote for the Chamber of Deputies. The minimum age is 18 to vote for the Chamber, 25 for the Senate.  Because the voting began Sunday and continued Monday, no exit poll results could be released, by law, until 3:00 pm Monday, Rome time (that's 9:00 AM EST), when polls officially closed.
     By and large the election went off without incident save for a few confirmed reports of attempted vote-buying. Officials at a polling place in Pisa caught a man surreptitiously photographing his own ballot, presumably intended to be shown to a party hack in exchange for money.
     Premier Silvio Berlusconi himself voted Sunday, taking along his 95-year-old blond mother. In the polling station he told her to be sure to vote for his party, Forza Italia. Told by the head of the polling station that this was illegal campaigning, Berlusconi retorted: "You mean, I can¹t even help my own mother vote? That¹s the Italy  I don¹t like" -- that is, in which a son can¹t "help" his mother make up her mind.
     Berlusconi notoriously ended the campaign by dubbing supporters of the rival center-left coalition as "coglioni," a vulgar term for testicles (roughly translatable in American slang as "dickheads."). Almost inevitably young supporters of Romano Prodi¹s "Union" coalition showed up wearing T-shirts emblazoned, "Sono un coglione," (I am a dickhead). After huddling, election officials determined that T-shirts with the slogan were permitted, but sandwich boards would not be.
     Throughout Monday rumors raced around Rome that exit polls were showing the Prodi forces as five points ahead of Berlusconi¹s Casa della Liberta¹) coalition, which ranges from Berlusconi's Forza Italia to the xenophobic racists of the Liga Nord (Northern League) to the neo-fascists of vice-premier Giancarlo Fini's Alleanza Nationale. With those reports now confirmed, it's time for rejoicing that the liberticide and corrupt Berlusconi has been driven from power. More details later... -- from Judy Harris (
right) in RomeJudy_hareris_12, 9:20 AM EST


A stunningly large number of voters, some 83% of the 47 million eligible, turned out to vote. They included for the first time ever absentee voters. Whether or not this is a positive note is debated, however; some believe it reflects the excessively high tensions generated by the mutual insults. Berlusconi called those who voted against him "coglioni", but Prodi called Berlusconi¹s clinging to (sometimes hokey) statistics akin to a drunk hanging onto a lamp post.
    Recalling that everyone acknowledges this as a squalid campaign, the past four weeks of insults and tensions were completely pointless: the first polls made six weeks ago and today¹s exit polls show the same results. That was yesterday¹s news. For the future, consider these striking novelties:
    First, the Rosa nel Pugno emerges as a powerful force likely to demand a cabinet Emma_bonnino post in the future government. The party is a merger of the more respectable vestiges of the old Socialist party (the tiny SDI) with the traditional Radical party, which is today identified with Emma Bonino (left) even Marco_panellamore than with its founder Marco Pannella (right), who led the successful campaigns for both legal divorce and legal abortion, and is today an ardent promoter of legalized marijuana.
     Despite laying claim to at best 5% of this vote (according to exit polls), Rosa del Pugno will be central to Prodi¹s center-left alliance. Its presence was essential to the success of the union, in which the Left Democrats (PDS) claimed between 17% and 20%. Secondly, the normal swing vote is of only 2.5% of Italian voters, whereas this time it is calculated at about 4%. This large shift means that a great many disappointed voters walked away from the Berlusconi coalition. Third, these were not Berlusconi¹s own Forza Italia voters. Whereas the center-right alliance has taken a shellacking, Berlusconi personally has not. In the Senate, his own party may have up to 78 senators and would therefore be stronger than Prodi¹s Ulivo, likely to have no more than 68. This can only mean problems for passage of future legislation unacceptable to Berlusconi. It also means that Berlusconi will not abandon Italian politics, more¹s the
Bossi_2_1rub. On the bright side, the Northern League, with its anti-immigrant stance, seems able to claim no more than 3% to 5% of the vote. Its hoarse-voiced leader, Umberto Bossi (left), has already promised that, if Prodi wins, he will leave Italy for Switzerland.
     In the larger sense, one might say that this was Italy¹s first true bi-party election system, with no third-party spoiler and a clear split between two opposingVladimir_luxuria views. All but 1% of the political action parties and formal organizations coalesced into two large coalitions. 

One more good news: For the first time Vladimir Luxuria (the transgendered gay rights leaderl, right) was interviewed today by Italian state TV, with the prediction that she would obtain a seat in parliament for the leftist Rifondazione Comunista, whose itcket in Rome she headed, in an historical first -- and not only for Italy. Luxuria, if her victory is confirmed, will also become the first transperson ever elected to any European parliament. The Rifondazione is expected to obtain between 5% and 7% of the vote, according to exit polls..-- Judy Harris in Rome


ROME -- You won't believe what's going on here. As the hours passed, Italians discovered that their election is ever more up for grabs. The 3,000 pollsters who quizzed Italians as they left voting booths Sunday and Monday seem to have made one of those colossalgoofs that go down in election history.
    At 3:01 pm today, just after the polls closed, the Nexus polling outfit reported that the center-left Union coalition was some five percentage points ahead of the Berlusconi-led coalition.
    By 9:01 pm, when projections from actual counts began to flow in, the situation had turned into a neck and neck race between center-left and center-right. "So who won?" TV pundit Bruno Vespa was asking.
    The answer: no one seems to know. "Perhaps we won't know till the last vote is counted," he added.
    The roller coaster election reflects Italy's adoption of a new voting regulation which imitates the US electoral college system, by which popular vote and electoral votes can differ. In the Senate, for instance, with 48.8% of the vote going to the House of Liberty, Berlusconi's coalition, giving it 158 seats. The center-left Union has 50.2% but only 151 seats. Stay tuned. -- from Judy Harris in Rome

P.S. Reuters reported at 3:35 PM EST that, "Nexus pollsters said the centre-right was advancing and could eventually end up the winner," but that "Piepoli pollsters for Sky Italia television said they would stick to their original forecast of a Prodi win." Reuters added that, "the Nexus projection was at odds with the official count, which put Prodi out front with 52.5 percent of the vote after 40 percent of returns for the lower house had been counted." And Bloomberg News reported that, "With more than half the votes for the Chamber of Deputies counted, Prodi's coalition led Berlusconi's with 51 percent to 48 percent." More details and real election returns will be posted here as soon as they are availablie. -- D.I.

Update from Rome at 6: 15 PM EST: THEY'RE NECK AND NECK... Rome -- Latest official results (at our 11:30 pm) with 4/5ths of the vote counted, give the center-left Unione 50.1% in the Chamber of Deputies vs. Berlusconi's 48.5. But in the Senate, which -- unlike the Chamber -- is elected by regions, the two remain neck and neck. The decisive results are expected to depend upon the Lazio and Campagna regions; the full results will come in within the next few

What a bummer! This will go down in voting history for the failure of the polls to predict accurately. The question is why: one theory is that people lie to pollsters, but what seems more likely is that Berlusconi's spectacular last-minute comeback resulted from his successfully grabbing the headlines with his violent rhetoric. -- from Judy Harris in Rome.

Read the previous special DIRELAND reports on Italy's elections from Judy Harris: March 6, 2006 -- Will Berlusconi Lose?; March 9, 2006: Italian Elections: What a Difference a Week Makes; March 12, 2006 -- Italy's Bizarre Election Campaign: Silvio's Spies and Cartoon Fairy Tale Videos; March 14, 2006 -- The Berlusconi-Prodi TV Debate; March 15, 2006-- After the Debate; March 17, Italy: The Election Campaign's Dark Underbelly

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Exit polling data IS unreliable. There's a reason people actually count the votes after elections.

Posted by: GodBlessAmerica | Apr 11, 2006 2:37:53 PM

I am an Italian elector for Prodi. The first thing that I learned in statistics is that the probability of 49,9 vs. 49,7 is extremely rare.
Exit polls in the afternoon gave us a completely different scenario, with the left winning by large numbers.
This is another stolen election. Italians under 25 years old can't vote for Senate but many young people in many regions were given voting sheet for Senate so there are more votes in Senate than actual electors. And Senate is were Berlusconi wins.
Electronic counting of votes was experimented for the first time in these elections. The son of Berlusconi's minister Pisanu works for the company in charge for the electronic counting, and the company is associated with Telecom, the main phone company in Italy that Berlusconi wants to buy soon.
Is it enough?

Posted by: Barbara | Apr 11, 2006 1:22:56 AM

"This will go down in voting history for the failure of the polls to predict accurately."

I don't think so.

Posted by: Sweejak | Apr 11, 2006 12:38:12 AM

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