ROME Feb 20 Silvio Berlusconi has caused
outrage among political rivals by sending letters to millions of
Italians promising to reimburse tax they paid in 2012, in a
final drive for votes before elections this weekend.
The official-looking envelopes read: "Important notice:
reimbursement of IMU 2012", referring to an unpopular property
tax brought in by the technocrat government of Mario Monti.
"The refund will be available either through a transfer into
your bank account, or to you personally at the counter of the
post office," the letters say.
Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani, whose
centre-left coalition was leading in the last opinion polls
published before a pre-election blackout, called the letter a
"This is a way of campaigning which I just can't accept.
It's time to be serious," he said.
Former anti-mafia prosecutor Antonio Ingroia, who leads a
small centre-left group, was even more scathing.
"With the letter sent to Italians promising money in
exchange for votes, Berlusconi has committed one crime, possibly
two," he wrote on his website, calling for the centre-right
leader to be prosecuted.
Berlusconi has made strong gains in polls since the start of
the year in his campaign to return to power. He made the "shock
proposal" to repay the levy in early February and has repeated
it at every opportunity, hoping for a repeat of the lift he won
with a similar pledge before the 2008 election.
Households in swing regions Sicily, Veneto, Campania and
Lombardy, which could decide the outcome of the race for the
Senate, received extended versions of the letter, according to
the daily La Repubblica.
Surveys have shown IMU to be one of the most unpopular
measures introduced by Monti's government. But according to a
poll by the Demopolis institute in early February, 51 percent of
Italians do not believe Berlusconi's pledge, and only 15 percent
think it is credible.
(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; editing by Andrew Roche)