Berlusconi blamed Monti's reinstatement of the tax on primary residences for Italy's spiral into recession, claiming it had decreased property values, reduced spending by ordinary Italians, slowed housing sales and seriously harmed the construction industry.

"Let's have a look at the damage that an untimely tax can do," Berlusconi said.

In truth, Italy's construction industry has been suffering throughout the economic crisis, which long predates the imposition of the property tax. A study by nationwide realtors group Tecnocasa said housing prices dropped around 5 percent around major cities and their suburbs last year, but there was no indication that the property tax was to blame: Tecnocasa cited tougher financing in the economic crisis and concerns about job security. It said there was no immediate impact on the purchases of primary residences.

Berlusconi came to power in 2008 after a last-minute campaign promise to remove the property tax, which he abolished in his first Cabinet meeting. On Friday, he promised to do the same if his coalition wins.

Monti had originally defended the tax as necessary and reasonable given that most of the developing world imposes one. But now that he is campaigning, Monti has said he would be open to revisions.

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