Italian politician Prodi offers bubbly for votes

zoomata staff: Saturday May 8 12:37 a.m.
Romano Prodi, currently European Union Commission President, is drumming up party support by offering bottles of mineral water.

“A sip of optimism,” promises the orange label promoting the Ulivo party, available in still or sparkling water. Gadgets are rare in Italian political campaigns — the revolving door of 59 governments put together since 1946 hasn’t allowed for much more than a few quickly printed posters and buttons.

Things have changed now that Prodi’s rival current Premier Silvio Berlusconi, with 1,060 days in office, broke the record May 5 for the longest time in office. It’s a strong statement since Prodi is merely the poster boy in June elections — he is not expected to return to the Italian political scene until October when his term is up Brussels.

It is a reassuringly quirky note in what has so far been a tame electoral season — instead of off-the-wall candidates like porn-star Cicciolina, a gaggle of TV presenters are lining up to become politicians.

This isn’t the first time that Prodi’s center-left coalition makes an appeal to health-conscious voters. In 1996 the economist campaigned by bus instead of the usual glam Italian motorcade and is known to bicycle around his native Bologna.

And the idea of water isn’t all wet — Italy is third world wide in consumption of bottled water and, according to ISTAT statistics, about half the population prefers to drink bottled water over tap for safety concerns.@1999-2007

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