Scandal-hit Berlusconi's popularity dips below 50 pct

21st July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's popularity falls to 49 percent as scandals surrounding him deepen, reveals recent poll.

Rome – Scandal- plagued Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's popularity has fallen below the 50 percent mark for the first time since his election in April 2008, a new poll showed Tuesday.

The poll by the IPR institute for the left-leaning daily La Repubblica gave the billionaire prime minister a 49-percent approval rating, the lowest since he swept back to power for a third time since 1994.

Fifty percent of the 1,000 respondents said they had little or no confidence in Berlusconi, while one percent had no opinion.

It was a four-point drop from a poll in May, which credited the media tycoon with a 53-percent approval rating.

"It is likely that the call girl scandal weighed heavily" on public opinion, La Repubblica said.

Berlusconi's successful hosting of the Group of Eight summit in the earthquake-hit city of L'Aquila in July "may have slowed a haemorrhage that could have been much worse," it said.

Overall confidence in the government held steady at 44 percent in the poll, which was conducted on Saturday.

Berlusconi's declining fortunes have apparently affected his People of Freedom (PDL) party, which dropped from 50 percent to 46 percent.

The anti-immigration Northern League party, allied with the PDL, fared better, scoring a three-point gain to 32 percent after authoring a law to crack down on illegal immigration.

The main opposition Democratic Party scored 33 percent, making it the least popular on the left.

A string of scandals have dogged Berlusconi since late April.

La Repubblica has led calls for him to explain his relationship to aspiring model Noemi Letizia after his attendance at her 18th birthday party prompted his wife to file for divorce.

Allegations followed that call girls had accepted fees to spend the night with him.

On Monday, the newsweekly L'Espresso, part of the same media group as La Repubblica, aired an online audio clip of a purported exchange between Berlusconi and a call girl in which he allegedly asks her to wait for him in a "the big bed" while he took a shower.

The prime minister's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini scoffed at the recording, calling it "totally implausible".

Further fuelling a media frenzy, Italian authorities seized hundreds of photos taken at Berlusconi's Sardinian villa.

Some of the pictures were published in the Spanish paper El Pais and showed Berlusconi in his garden surrounded by women. Other photos showed topless women and a man who was totally nude by a pool.

The flamboyant prime minister has dismissed the allegations as "all lies" and politically motivated.

AFP / Expatica

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