Italians don't believe Berlusconi tax promises: poll

Tue Feb 5, 2013 8:40am EST
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By Barry Moody

ROME (Reuters) - Most Italians do not believe Silvio Berlusconi's promises to cut taxes, despite a "shock proposal" to pay back a hated housing levy in a last lap attempt to win this month's election, two new opinion polls showed.

One of the surveys, published by SWG pollsters on Tuesday, also indicated the center-left election frontrunners were making a slight recovery after previously losing support because of a banking scandal.

Another poll, by Demopolis on Monday night, said 51 percent of Italians did not believe Berlusconi's weekend pledge to immediately abolish the IMU property tax and pay it back, a proposal that was mocked by his opponents as an empty and impossible vote-buying trick.

Undermined by a lurid sex scandal, Berlusconi, 76, was hounded out of power and replaced by technocrat Mario Monti in November 2011, as Italy slid towards a Greek-style debt crisis.

The billionaire media tycoon spent most of next year in the shadows but has launched an astonishing comeback since December to halve the gap with the center-left to around 5 points, although most pollsters think he still cannot win the election.

The resurgence of the master communicator, based on a blitz of television appearances and constant attacks on Monti's tax hikes, has raised the specter of instability after the vote which is starting to worry investors.

SWG's poll, taken on Monday, showed Berlusconi was the least credible on taxes among all the political leaders fighting the February 24-25 election, convincing only 18 percent of those surveyed.

Center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani was the most credible on 27 percent, just ahead of anti-establishment 5-Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo, a Genoese comedian.   Continued...

Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi speaks during a political rally in Milan February 3, 2013. REUTERS/Paolo Bona