Rome Italy dissolved its parliament on Saturday and scheduled elections for early April, opening what promises to be a bitter campaign pitting Premier Silvio Berlusconi against a strong center-left opponent.
Parliament ended two weeks later than planned after Berlusconi negotiated a delay that allowed his government to rush through a flurry of legislation. It also allowed the premier to keep up a barrage of TV and radio appearances, which will be limited during official campaigning because of rules that give equal time to competing coalitions.
Berlusconi has been attacking the opposition and forcefully presenting what he calls his government's successes. He has seemingly spared no effort in trying to appeal to voters: giving Italians advice on safe driving during a radio show, talking soccer, cracking jokes - even singing a Neapolitan song on the radio.