The lower chamber of Italy’s Parliament on Wednesday approved the first pieces of a new election law that aims to make the country more governable by encouraging coalition-building, especially among smaller parties. Major parties on the left and right are backing the law, which calls for a combination of seats assigned by a majority system based on colleges and proportional voting. But it is bitterly opposed by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, Italy’s largest opposition party in Parliament. It has denounced the proposed law as undemocratic.
Articles about voting issues in the Italian Republic.
The Italian government on Wednesday won two confidence votes on a fiercely contested electoral law that is likely to penalize the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement in next year’s national election. The proposed voting system is backed by three of the country’s four largest parties, with the centre-left government looking to rush it onto the statute books ahead of elections, which are due by May 2018. Five-Star supporters protested in front of parliament as the Chamber of Deputies approved two confidence motions by a wide margin. A third such vote is scheduled for Thursday ahead of a final ballot in the lower house on the disputed bill. Unlike the current rules, the new system would allow the formation of multi-party coalitions before the ballot, a factor likely to hurt 5-Star, which is topping most opinion polls and refuses to join alliances.
The Italian government called on Tuesday for confidence votes in the lower house of parliament to try to force through an electoral law that is likely to penalize the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement. The new voting law, which would be used in a national election due by next May, is backed by the ruling Democratic Party (PD), former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy!) and the anti-migrant Northern League. Unlike the current rules, the new system, known as the Rosatellum, would allow the formation of broad coalitions before the ballot, a factor likely to hurt the maverick 5-Star, which refuses to join alliances. The party, which tops many opinion polls, says the Rosatellum could cost it up to 50 seats in parliament. It has called for protests on Wednesday, when the lower house is due to hold two confidence motions. A third vote is set for Thursday.
Hacking attacks on the web platform used by Italy’s 5-Star Movement to select representatives and shape policy threaten to dent confidence in its methods before a parliamentary election it is well placed to win. Internet-based direct democracy, in which members vote online, is a hallmark of the anti-establishment group that first entered parliament in 2013 and leads many opinion polls before the election, due to be held by May. Gianroberto Casaleggio, the late internet guru who co-founded 5-Star in 2009, believed the web would eventually supplant representative democracy, the system under which all eligible citizens vote on representatives to pass laws for them. But in August anonymous hackers broke into 5-Star’s web platform, called “Rousseau” after the 18th century Swiss-born philosopher, and obtained secret data on its members and donors.
Italy’s politics is currently paralysed. Since the resignation of PM Matteo Renzi last December, the majority of the population and most political parties want an election, even though one is not scheduled to occur until next year. The country is now on its fourth consecutive unelected PM, Paolo Gentiloni. As he leads the government Renzi remains behind the scenes, calling the shots for his party and itching to get back into power. Yet an early election cannot occur immediately, nor can electoral reform happen overnight. It is a debate Italians and Canadians are quite familiar with. Italy has seen such proceedings, on and off, for more than two decades. The numerous reforms that have emerged from this debate demonstrate perfectly the various tradeoffs that electoral reform entails, and illustrate the idea that no electoral system is perfect.
Italian voters have rejected the populist 5-Star Movement in mayoral elections, favoring established center-left and center-right tickets, but its leader vowed Monday to press on until national power is achieved. With a majority of ballots counted from elections a day earlier in some 1,000 small cities and towns, the 5-Star Movement had imploded in all big races, including in Genoa, home of its leader and founder, comic Beppe Grillo. Voters thrashed the anti-euro movement, which bills itself as anti-establishment since supporters’ online selections generally determine their slate of candidates.
Italy will not hold elections until the natural end of the legislature in spring next year, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who leads the ruling Democratic Party (PD), said on Saturday. Renzi said he saw little hope of reforming the electoral system after a deal between the four largest parties broke down this week, meaning Italy will probably vote with a system considered inefficient and unlikely to produce a majority. In an interview with daily Corriere della Sera, Renzi denied that he wanted to go to the polls this autumn, as was widely believed, and when asked when he expected the election he replied: “in 2018, at the end of the legislature.”
A deal between Italy’s main political parties on electoral reform unraveled on Thursday, leading to calls for a snap election that could usher in more instability in the euro zone’s third largest economy. Two major opposition parties, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the right-wing Northern League called for an immediate vote, and the ruling Democratic Party (PD) said it now seemed hard for the government to carry on. An accord in favor of a proportional representation voting system based on the German model collapsed after the PD lost a parliamentary vote on a minor, proposed amendment.
The path is beginning to clear for Italians to head back to the polls as the country’s main political parties near a deal on a new electoral law. Italy’s biggest parties are considering a proportional system similar to the German model with a 5 percent cut-off for smaller parties, and lawmakers are due to discuss a first draft of the new law early next month. An agreement would remove any hindrance to snap elections, eliminating the need to wait for scheduled elections in early 2018. “Momentum is building among political leaders and is pushing towards early elections but it will be an uphill battle against the President and parts of the rank-and-file in the parliament,” Giovanni Orsina, a professor of government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University said in a phone interview.
Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Tuesday that Italy’s largest parties agree on the need for a proportional representation electoral system and that a law to adapt it should be enacted in the first week of July. Renzi’s confirmation of the position of the ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD), of which he is head, raised the chances of an early national election before one is due to be held in May 2018, political commentators said. Some commentators said an approval of a new electoral law in early July would raise the chances of an unprecedented autumn parliamentary vote, perhaps as early as September. Italy has never had a parliamentary election later than June.