Source AP ©

Poll: Majority of Italians give Prodi thumbs down for first year

A majority of Italians think Premier Romano Prodi's center-left government has not done a good job in its first year in office, according to a poll published Thursday.

"Birthday With No Toast," Corriere della Sera said in a front-page editorial published exactly 12 months into the government's five-year term. "That's not the way," said L'Unita, a center-left paper close to the coalition's largest party.

Prodi's popularity has been falling, according to published opinion polls, amid constant coalition infighting.

The poll published by the leading financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore showed 55 percent of Italians view the government's performance negatively, while 42 percent said it has been positive and 3 percent did not know.

The poll of about 1,000 contacted by telephone on Monday had a margin of error of between 0.6 and 3.1 percentage points, according to the IPSOS institute that conducted it.

Prodi took office in May 2004, after a tight election gave his coalition a very narrow margin over Silvio Berlusconi's conservatives. Prodi resigned briefly in February following a parliamentary defeat on foreign policy, and was forced to seek a new vote of confidence.

He pledged unity, but what followed was more division.

Part -of the problem for Prodi is that he has the narrowest of margins in the Senate, meaning that virtually any defection can bring about a defeat in the upper house.

His coalition allies - a mixed group ranging from Christian Democrats to Communists and anti-Vatican secularists - have different views on key policies and are not always willing to sacrifice their positions to safeguard the coalition.

"If one goes through the controversies that have stormed the path of the majority in these months, one will have the impression of an exhausting and endless guerrilla warfare," Corriere della Sera said.

Prodi faces a major test later this month with local elections across Italy. Last week his candidates fared poorly in a local election in Sicily, including in Palermo, the island's capital and largest city.

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