Italian election interests industryites

Entertainment honchos focus on election

Is a Silvio sequel really what Italians want?

Italy’s entertainment biz is holding its breath before Sunday and Monday’s election, which pits TV mogul and former two-time prime minister Silvio Berlusconi against film buff pol Walter Veltroni, the man who befriends Hollywood stars and launched the Rome Film Festival.

The latest polls have Berlusconi leading the race for prime minister with a 5%-9% margin, but that advantage has been shrinking, pundits said.

About one third of Italo voters are reportedly still undecided in the final stretch, giving Veltroni’s Barack Obama ripoff rallying cry “Si puo fare” (“Yes we can”) a still realizable ring.

Veltroni, a former mayor of Rome and a published novelist, is a big Obama fan who penned the introduction to the Italian edition of Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” tome.

George Clooney, besides being an Obama supporter, also seems to be backing the bespectacled former Rome mayor.

“Veltroni is someone who speaks to all of us, who speaks to young people, who speaks about hope and a clean environment,” enthused Clooney on Wednesday while promoting “Leatherheads” in Rome.

If elected, underdog Veltroni, 52, would become the youngest prime minister in Italy’s postwar history.

But Berlusconi, 71, is grandstanding as the sure-fire winner. On Wednesday, the perma-tanned mogul with a facelift who controls commercial broadcaster Mediaset told pubcaster RAI that he was “100% sure” he would become Italy’s prime minister for the third time — a prospect that has the country’s leftist film directors shrieking in horror.

Helmer Nanni Moretti has been urging wary Italians to go to the polls. “I can’t stand those who say they won’t be voting because they don’t have time or because they claim it won’t make any difference,” he recently declared.

Moretti’s scathing anti-Berlusconi pic “The Caiman” played in Italy on the eve of the 2006 elections, which Berlusconi then narrowly lost.

A shaky center-left government followed, headed by economist Romano Prodi, but it fell in January. Prodi’s government has been praised by Italy’s film community for reopening the funding faucet and introducing eagerly awaited movie production tax breaks.

It had also raised Mediaset’s ire because it was drafting a media law that would place a more stringent limit on the advertising intake of its three channels.

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