Berlusconi coalition gains ground: poll

Jan. 18, 2013 at 12:57 PM
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ROME, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- A coalition led by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has chipped away at the lead of the favored opposition party, a poll indicated Friday.

A weekly survey by polling organization SWG found the number of voters who said they planned to vote for Berlusconi's People of Freedom party and its center-right coalition had risen 1.9 percent with elections little more than a month away, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.

Berlusconi's coalition was favored by 27.2 percent in the new survey. The center-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani still led the poll at 33 percent.

The populist Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo ranked third, 3 points ahead of the centrist group led by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti, which had 13.7 percent.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for Feb. 24-25.

The status of criminal charges against Berlusconi could affect his ability to take office should his coalition win.

Judges hearing an appeal of his tax fraud conviction Friday rejected Berlusconi's request to have the trial postponed until after the election.

The judges said the verdict would not come until after the election, so it would not affect his campaign.

In October, Berlusconi was sentenced to a year in jail and a five-year ban on holding public office.

Berlusconi also is accused of having sex with an underage prostitute.

Judges Thursday agreed to postpone his trial on charges he was involved in the publication of an illegal wiretap.

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