NIAF’s Guide to the Italian Elections

So you’ve been hearing some interesting news coming out of Italy in the last few days. We have too. There was an election, but there doesn’t seem to be a winner. Here’s NIAF’s quick breakdown of what happened – and why it matters.

How do elections in Italy even work?
The Republic of Italy usually holds its elections every five years. Italy has a party-list proportional system, which means that the current political parties make lists of candidates to be elected and the seats in both houses of Parliament are awarded to each party based on the proportion of votes the party receives.

Italian citizens, both in Italy and abroad, have two different options when they vote. Like we do here, voters can vote for an individual running for a seat in the either the House of Deputies or the Senate. But in Italy, this vote will also count toward the total number of votes for that individual’s party. For example, if I voted for the Democratic candidate for Congress from Indiana, that vote would also be a vote for the Democratic party at large, whose leader is Barack Obama. Unlike here in the United States, Italians are able to vote directly for a party but not for an individual. This vote, too, would go to the total vote count for an individual party.

Once the votes are tallied, if a party has a majority of votes and therefore, the majority in both houses of the Parliament, the leader of that party becomes Prime Minister. If, however, no single party wins a majority, parties can form coalitions to have a 55 percent majority and the chosen leader of the coalition becomes Prime Minister.

Who are the players?
Silvio Berlusconi: Silvio Berlusconi is the former prime minister and founder of the centre-right political party in Italy– the People of Freedom (PdL). Berlusconi has served as Italy’s Prime Minister three times and has decided to run again after much speculation.
Pier Luigi Bersani: Pier Luigi Bersani is Secretary of the centre-left party, the Democratic Party of Italy. Along with the PdL, it is one of the two major parties of the Italian party system. If Bersani were to win the elections, he would like form a coalition with former Prime Minister Mario Monti.
Beppe Grillo: Some of you may not associate his name with politics, but the comedian has managed to shake up Italy’s elections. Known for his daring political jokes, Beppe Grillo became a political sensation in Italy and in 2005. In 2009, he set up the Five Star Movement (M5S) which is a left-wing party.
Mario Monti: When Berlusconi resigned in 2011 as Prime Minister, Mario Monti took over with his technocratic way of governing. With his economic background, Monti made some progress, but was constantly attacked by the PdL for his “austerity.” The Prime Minister was forced to resign, but has run under a centrist coalition platform called With Monti for Italy. He came in fourth, but may form a coalition with Bersani.

So what happened?
The outcome of the election may be unclear, however three major facts stood out. The first was that the Five Star Movement, founded by Beppe Grillo secured about one fourth of the votes in Italy, more than any other party. Because of this success, neither of the two main alliances (center-right and center-left) obtained a majority in the upper house, the Senate. The final result was that the center-left party won the lower house by less than half a percentage point. In order to govern, however, a majority is needed in both chambers, so Italy has a political stalemate.

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1 Response to NIAF’s Guide to the Italian Elections

  1. Parvin Kavehkar says:

    Very interesting! Thanks. So what then now?!! what is going to happen next? Berlusconi and Bersani are going to create a coaloition?!!

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