One of Mario Monti's least popular reforms among Italian property owners is the introduction of a new property-based council tax (IMU) to replace the one that Silvio Berlusconi scrapped in 2008. On Wednesday, everyone on the electoral register was sent a letter with 'Avviso Importante: Rimborso IMU 2012’ printed on the envelope. The two closely printed sides of A4 inside explained how people could get last year's council tax refunded, either by bank transfer or in person at the post office. The letter was signed by Berlusconi: all people have to do to qualify for the rebate is vote for him in next week's elections. But not everyone read that far; apparently hopeful queues formed at post offices within hours. They'd have done better to mob Mediaset's headquarters.

Monti obviously wouldn't stoop to such tactics: instead he's been muttering darkly about Angela Merkel not wanting the centre-left Partito Democratico in power (Merkel says she never said any such thing). The PD meanwhile, narrowly ahead in the polls, has promised to get rid of prescription charges, another of Monti's austerity measures.

Yesterday Roberto Saviano wrote a piece in l'Espresso about voters across the country being offered benefits in kind in exchange for their votes (it's only a crime if you pay cash): a €50 mobile phone top-up, a washing machine or dishwasher, a pair of trainers, a bank loan, tickets to a football game, pasta, a temp job.

The most likely outcome from Sunday and Monday's vote is a hung parliament, and more horsetrading.