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Berlusconi’s tax promises ‘not believed’

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 attempt to win this month’s election, two opinion polls showed.

One of the surveys, published by SWG pollsters yesterday, also indicated the centre-left election front-runners were making a slight recovery after previously losing support because of a banking scandal.

Another poll, by Demopolis on Monday night, said 51 per cent 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 the follwing year in the shadows but has launched an astonishing comeback since December to halve the gap with the centre-left to around five 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 spectre 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 per cent of those surveyed.

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