Berlusconi Public Support Rises to Highest of Campaign in Italy

Silvio Berlusconi’s public support rose to the highest level since Italy’s election campaign began last month as the former premier promised tax cuts and blasted rivals for their ties to troubled lender Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA. (BMPS)

Backing for Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party, Italy’s second-biggest political force, advanced to 20 percent in an EMG poll conducted Jan. 24-25 and broadcast late yesterday by television channel La7. That compares with 19 percent support in a Jan. 17-18 EMG survey and 16 percent support in a Dec. 13-14 survey by the pollster. The margin of error was 3.1 percent.

Berlusconi, 76, has closed the gap against front-runner Pier Luigi Bersani’s Democratic Party by appealing to voters weary of tax increases and recession. The three-time premier has laid blame on Bersani for his party’s ties to the lender, whose former management hid details of structured finance deals from regulators. He also faulted Prime Minister Mario Monti for bailing out the bank.

In the first major poll since the Monte Paschi case captured headlines, support for the Democratic Party, or PD, fell by 1.1 percentage points in the week to 30.7 percent, according to EMG. Backing for Monti’s party fell to 9.6 percent from 10.1 percent.

Berlusconi has said he would fund tax cuts by reducing spending. Bersani has called for reduced taxes for lower income Italians and higher rates for top earners. Monti yesterday announced a plan for almost 30 billion euros in tax cuts and breaks over five years.

Public support for Berlusconi’s coalition, which includes smaller parties including the Northern League, was unchanged at 28 percent in the EMG poll. Backing for Bersani’s coalition slipped 0.3 percentage points to 36.8 percent, according to EMG. Monti’s coalition slipped 0.7 percentage point to 14.5 percent. Italians will vote in parliamentary elections Feb. 24-25.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Frye in Rome at afrye@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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