The Showdown in Italy

ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP-GETTY IMAGES

Prodi, at right, talks economics; Berlusconi is trailing

Ever since Silvio Berlusconi took office five years ago, the waters of Italian politics have been poisoned by attacks launched by and leveled at the controversial Prime Minister. So it's not surprising that the billionaire leader's bid for re-election against center-left rival Romano Prodi is turning toxic. Berlusconi, 69, is trailing in the polls. After a lackluster showing in the first of two televised debates, Berlusconi has sought to revive his prospects with fresh shots of venom.

Last week, he stole headlines after exploding onstage at a conference of Italy's leading industrialists. The Prime Minister accused businessmen who...

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