The Italian Almanac

Silvio Berlusconi

Italian News - January 31

If Tony Blair or George Bush or any other leader promised to give up sex for two-and-a-half months, would you be more likely to vote for them? Would you be impressed by the show of strong-mindedness and the notion of putting basic urges to one side while focussing on one's duty to the state? Would you think it a welcome relief from the quixotic promises of tax cuts and better public services that perfunctorily dominate polling campaigns? Or would you think it an election gimmick?

Italian voters were facing that conundrum after the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, promised to be chaste until the country's general election, due to be held on April 9. Mr Berlusconi, Italy's richest man and a father-of-five, told a TV preacher that he would " try not to let you down" as he made the pledge. In return he was thanked by Massimiliano Pusceddu, not least because the PM also took the opportunity to restate his opposition to same-sex marriage.

The no-sex pledge came after a midweek radio interview in which the premier was asked whether he had been faithful to his wives. "Frequently," he quipped in reply. The coming weeks will tell whether Mr Berlusconi, who once told international financiers that the beauty of Italian secretaries was good reason to invest in the country and has mused about legalising brothels, has now successfully moved to tap the celibate vote.

Election strategists take note.