Berlusconi derides polls showing his bloc trailing; says he commissioned own poll

Conservative Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday criticized opinion polls showing his forces trailing in popularity, accusing the pollsters of being biased against him and promising a poll he commissioned would show leading in the run-up to elections.

The April 9 vote pits the billionaire media magnate against center-left challenger Romano Prodi, who was formerly European Commission president.

"We have commissioned an American company," Berlusconi told a campaign rally in the northern city of Modena, without identifying the polling outfit.

"Within 15 day, we will have the results. It will be the true photograph of what the Italians think, of what happens when I speak to the people," Berlusconi said.

The poll will show that "we are ahead," Berlusconi said.

RAI state TV, reporting from Modena, quoted Berlusconi as claiming that the Italian polls had been conducted by outfits he claimed were biased in favor of the left and wanted to influence the electorate.

In mid-January, a poll gave the center-left opposition a lead of 6 percentage points, with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5-2.5 percentage points. It was conducted by ISPO, one of Italy's main polling institutes. Earlier polls had shown Berlusconi's bloc narrowing the gap, reports AP.


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