The keys to the Italian elections: from the electoral system to the main candidates

Italians are called to the polls this September 25 to determine the composition of the two chambers that make up the Parliament. The reduction of seats will be one of the keys of this appointment, in which the electoral system that already premiered in the 2018 elections will be repeated.

A referendum endorsed in September 2020 a constitutional reform that involved lowering the number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies from 630 to 400. The number of senators appointed by popular vote was also reduced from 315 to 200.

The Constitution establishes that the renewal of the chambers must take place every five years, but in practice reaching the theoretical end of the legislature depends on the stability of the Government. The last elections, in fact, took place in 2018.

All citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote, although until 2021 the threshold stood at 25 for Senate elections. To run for Congress, it is required to have reached 25 years of age, while only those over 40 years of age can be senators.

Italy premiered in the 2018 elections the electoral system baptized ‘Rosatellum’, in honor of the Democratic Party deputy who proposed the reform, Eltore Rosato. It establishes a double system of distribution of seats and, theoretically, favors the establishment of blocs and parties with greater territorial expansion.

Thirty-six percent of the seats are distributed through a single-member constituency system, in which the candidate who obtains the highest number of votes obtains the seat. This formula will be used to apportion 147 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 74 in the Senate.

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Another 61 percent of the legislators—245 deputies and 122 senators–will be appointed from a proportional list system, with between one and eight seats per constituency, depending on their population.

The regulations reserve 2 percent of the seats–eight in the Chamber of Deputies and four in the Senate–for Italians living abroad, also through a proportional party-list system.

The final distribution takes into account a series of minimum thresholds, so that parties running alone and failing to obtain at least 3 percent of the votes at the national level will not obtain any seats. In the Senate, an exception is established as obtaining 20 percent of the votes in a region.

For coalitions, the minimum threshold is raised to 10 percent.

None of the last seven prime ministers that Italy has had had had run for office in an election, which tells the story of the extent to which the country has been doomed to post-election negotiations or to look to technocratic leaders for urgent relief in times of crisis.

The polls place the right-wing bloc ahead this time, with Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy as the favorite in voting intentions. Meloni aspires to be the first woman to head an Italian government with the support of Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

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The other alliance with options leans towards the center-left and is led by Enrico Letta’s Democratic Party (PD), which aspired to a large left-wing front and has finally had to settle for Green Europe, Italian Left and Civic Commitment –the latter created by Luigi di Maio–.

The 5 Star Movement (M5S), led by Giuseppe Conte, and the Third Pole made up of the parties of Matteo Renzi (Italia Viva) and Carlo Calenda (Action) are watching this pulse between the two large blocs in the hope that their support could be key to forming a government.

The new Parliament will be constituted on October 13 and, although contacts between the parties will foreseeably have already begun by then, it will not be until after that date that the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, will begin consultations with a view to commissioning the formation of the Government.

Mattarella has complete freedom to come up with a name and, as recent Italian history has made clear, this does not have to be the head of the list of the party with the highest number of votes. He does not even have to be a member of the Chamber of Deputies, in case the lack of agreement leads to resort again to an external figure.

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