We are one of the countries in the world to have changed the election system the most. With this one, it is in fact, the fifth in a row in 70 years life of the Republic: an average change every 14 years. But before we even talk about current laws, it is worth taking a step back into history, hinting at another repeatedly evoked legislation after the government’s announcement on whether it will place its confidence on the Italicum or not. We’re in 1923, and Benito Mussolini, passed the so-called ‘bitter law,’ which wanted to ensure the national fascist party a solid majority in Parliament. The measure was the adoption of a system of proportional representation with a majority prime, within a single National constituency divided into 16 constituencies. The result was decisive in the costintuency only to determine the allocation of seats: If most voted list at national level had exceeded 25% of valid votes, would automatically get two-thirds of seats in the House, reinforcing the government. The law passed with a vote of confidence, and this is why we recall it today.
Then, after the war, the Italian Republic was born. The general election of 1948 was held on voting system introduced with the Vice regal Legislative Decree No. 74 of March 10, 1946, designed precisely to handle Constituent Assembly elections that had been scheduled for the following June 2. Scalded by the authoritarian government in power for two decades, the founding fathers thought the perfect two-chamber system, where each chambre was elected and based on proportional representation and controlled the actions of the other. The system introduced was transposed as the election legislation to the Chamber of deputies by law No 6 of January 20, 1948. As for the Senate, the election criteria were established by Act No. 29 of February 6, 1948which, than for the room, contained some minor corrections in the majority sense, while keeping itself in a largely proportional framework. Unlike the House, the electoral law of the Senate was divided on a regional basis.
Therefore, this proportional system with a threshold, was adopted for all elections in Italy from1946 to 1993 (except for the election of the Senate). Then, in 1993, came into force the law Mattarella(or Mattarellum) which remained in force until 2005. It introduced a hybrid electoral system, referred to as single-Member plurality in turn only for the three-quarters of the seats in the Senate and three-quarters of the seats in the House; top rated proportional ‘Repechage’ between unelected candidates for the assignment of the remaining 25% of the seats of the Senate; proportional threshold of the nominators’ lists at 4% for the remaining 25% of seats in the Chamber.
But it was actually already in 1991 that something was actually brewing in the pot. Those years were defined as “years of the referendum”. June 9, 1991, in fact, multiple preferences were abolished. It was the first blow to a political system that had been put in crisis since the fall of the Berlin wall, a small change that produced a devastating effect: millions of votes, especially in the South, were subtracted from political nepotism. Then came ‘Tangentopoli’ (Bribesville), in 1992; the traditional party system began to give way under the blows of the judiciary, and so in 1993 came the second turning point related to the referendum. On April 18, a simbolic date in Italian politics, the Italians decided to clear the Senate’s election system, a choice that was interpreted as a shift in majority, anti-proportional sense. The final requirement was to prevent the fragmentation into small parties, enhance the governability of the country and eliminate the vote-buying attached with bribes.
In 2005, With Calderoli’s law came the ‘Porcellum’ designed by Berlusconi’s government: a system of proportional representation with a majority bonus system (MBS) – allocated on a regional basis in the Senate – and several clauses posing a threshold on the numbers of votes. The substantial novelty was in the cancellation of preferencial votes, essentially giving to political parties (which in the meantime were becoming parties under a one and only unchallenged leader, with his name on the party’s symbol) the power of choice over who was to enter Parliament and relegated to the voters only vote, their ideological position.
In 2013, the Constitutional Court declared the unconstitutionality of the law, relating to the MBS and made it impossible for voters to choose a preference in their vote. This reformulation, which is currently in force, is called the Consultellum, as a fact and nota s a law-sanctions the illegitimacy of the elected members in the upper and lower house today.
And now for the present, with closed lists and preferential stuck under the Italicum law. Over 100 constituencies- whose leaders, on obtaining the sufficient number of votes required, would automatically be elected-have been closed and hence chosen by the party. Starting from the second highest voted, the ‘preference’ vote has been reinstated: two names on the ballot, with alternating gender (between male and female candidate.)
Should the highest votes exceed 40% on the first round, 340 seats will be assigned, i.e. this means an out right majority. On the contrary, should no party obtain the established quota at 40, there would be a second round between the top parties, whoever wins then, obtains then 340 seats. The election threshold is at 3% for all parties. As clause to avoid a return to the polls too early, the Italicum comes into force on July 1, 2016 and will apply only to the Chamber of Deputies, in the meantime, the Senate should be reformed, i.e. unelected and depowered.
Concerning the law the government has decided to place its vote of confidence. At least, three: at the party-leader’s conference yesterday, they have ruled they will vote first on article 1 this afternoon and the other two (articles 2 and 4) tomorrow. The opposing members of the Democratic Party are expected to be in an uproar: Bersani has already stated his dissent, and will not be the only one.The final vote, over which can’t be placed a vote of confidence, will probably be postponed till next week.
Translation provided by Marina Stronati