April 3, 2008 / 12:34 PM / 12 years ago

"Thank goodness for Silvio!" stirs Italian campaign

ROME (Reuters) - A fawning ode to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi that features bakers with croissants and women on treadmills singing “Thank goodness for Silvio!” has become a runaway hit on the Internet and the campaign trail.

Italian PDL (Party for Liberty) leader Silvio Berlusconi claps during an electoral rally titled " Women for Italy " in Rome, March 28, 2008. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Created by a pony-tailed fan who likens it to a “love song” for the media magnate seeking his third term as prime minister, the song is belted out by supporters and loud speakers at Berlusconi’s every stop ahead of the April 13-14 election.

“It’s absolutely part of personality cult politics and so should not be done, but the youth wanted it, and it can bring joy,” Berlusconi said, calling it embarrassing but effective.

With polls showing his main rival narrowing his 5 to 9 point lead in a campaign dubbed dreary, Berlusconi’s camp is betting the catchy tune will stir passion ahead of the vote.

At a recent rally, giant screens displayed the lyrics — including “We are the people of freedom, prime minister we are with you” — to the crowd karaoke-style.

Matronly women waved flags and led a passionate rendition of the song as Berlusconi smiled and nodded, flanked by young supporters.

“It has really entered people’s souls,” said composer Andrea Vantini. “Mostly those of Berlusconi’s supporters, but I see that others who have different ideas can’t help singing it as well. Maybe with something else in mind. But they sing it.”

Vantini, a previously unknown singer, has since been photographed playing the piano with Berlusconi at his house.

Not to be outdone, supporters of the Democratic Party (PD), led by former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni, created their own unofficial anthem on a 65-euro budget called “I’m PD”, sung to the tune of disco group Village People’s smash hit “YMCA”.

The video, which features Italians singing “Walter, I trust in you” as they shave, mix drinks or work, became an instant hit, but was taken off the PD youth website due to fears of violating copyright laws.

It remains popular on YouTube.com, competing for attention with the Berlusconi song. That features ice cream scoopers, students, bakers and taxi drivers singing the refrain and marching down a staircase arm in arm, swaying in step.

The song was quick to spawn spoofs. One YouTube clip shows a young man vomiting on hearing the familiar refrain.

A video by self-styled Obama Girl, featuring a singer professing her love for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, was among the most viewed clips on YouTube last year and became the talk of news and chat shows.

Additional reporting by Cristiano Corvino; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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