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Berlusconi’s Gains Make Senate Race Unpredictable, Poll Shows

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Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s surge in opinion polls is making the Italian Senate race even more unpredictable two weeks before general elections, a Tecne poll aired by SkyTG24 showed.

The gap between his bloc and frontrunner Pier Luigi Bersani’s coalition has narrowed to less than 5 percentage points in six regions, according to a Tecne poll aired by SkyTG24 today. Democratic Party leader Bersani’s lead for the vote for the Chamber of Deputies, where there’s a majority premium based on national vote, has narrowed to 3.6 percent, within the margin of error of 4 percentage points in the poll.

In Lombardy, Piedmont, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Campania, the gap between the two blocs in the Senate race is less than 3 percentage points, while in Puglia, until now assigned by pollsters to the Bersani’s bloc, and Molise the difference is about or less than 4 percentage points. Bersani and Berlusconi are neck-in-neck at 37.1 percent in the Senate race in Lombardy, which assigns the most seats, 49 out of 315.

Berlusconi has been gaining on Bersani as he steps up his promises to cuts taxes and end a levy on first homes implemented by the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti that he sustained in power. Bersani risks falling short of the 158-seat majority in the Senate due to an electoral law that doles out seats in that house on a regional basis.

His bloc may fail to assemble a majority even with Monti’s support should it lose Lombardy, Piedmont and Campania, as it would only get 154 senators, Tecne’s poll shows. Tecne’s calculations don’t include six senators elected by Italians abroad. Sicily and Veneto, previously considered swing regions, would be won by Berlusconi’s bloc with a margin of more than 5 percent, the poll showed.

Bersani aide and Democratic party spokesman for economic policy Stefano Fassina said today that, should Bersani fail to assemble a majority even with Monti’s support, new elections would be held.

Opinion polls won’t be published after Feb. 9 as part of a law commonly called “par condicio,” a Latin word for equal conditions, that dictates the criteria to be imposed on every Italian television and radio station before the Feb. 24-25 vote. The first exit polls will be published shortly after 3 p.m. on Jan. 25 local time when polling stations close.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chiara Vasarri in Rome at cvasarri@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerrold Colten at jcolten@bloomberg.net

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