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The Italian Elections Explained

Image Source: Sole 24 Ore

On March 4, the Italians were called to vote for the elections to the parliament.

The Italian electoral law called “Rosatellum” is a mixed system where 36% of the members of the two houses of the parliament are elected with a majority system and 64% with a proportional system. Furthermore, it includes two thresholds to enter the parliament. If a party is outside a coalition, the threshold is 3%. If inside a coalition, it is 1%, but in case the party gets between 1% and 3% the votes are redistributed between the other parties of the coalition.

The results of the vote were unexpected for many reasons. The single most voted party was the 5 Stars Movement with around 32% of the votes in both chambers. The most voted coalition was the right one with a total 36% of votes divided in 17% for the League, 14% for Forza Italia, 4% for Brothers of Italy and 1% for We With Italy. The center left coalition received 22,5% of the preferences divided in: 19% for the Democratic Party, 2,5% for +Europa and the rest for minor parties in the coalition. The last party that was elected was Free and Equal with just over 3% of the votes. It is important to remember that those are the averages of the percentages of the votes in the two chambers and not the percentage of the seats each party won.

Firstly, the great performance of the 5 Stars Movement was somewhat expected. However, what left most of the reporters astonished was the fact that the single most voted party within the center right coalition was the League and not Forza Italia. Furthermore, even though the democratic party wasn’t in a good shape no one was expecting such a drastic decline of votes.

We can see that the country is divided. The rich north is already out of the crisis, and voted for the parties that promised a flat tax. On the other hand, the poor south is still struggling with the aftermath of the crisis, and turned to vote for the 5 Stars and its promise of a universal basic income. The Democratic Party was able to secure the votes only within major cities and from the electors voting from outside Italy, probably the only two groups that had recognized benefits from globalization. Many suggest that the onset of populist parties happened only now as the left stopped doing what the left should do, redistributing wealth towards the people that are left behind in the development process.

Image source: Sole 24 ore

Starting with the analysis of the right coalition, it is worth noticing a general move from the more moderate parties of the coalition towards the League and Brothers of Italy. Salvini, head of the League, was able to accomplish such a result by completely changing the party’s appeal. From a regional party criticizing the southern part of the country to a national one which was able to attract votes even in the south with a strong position against immigration.

The 5 Stars Movement was, on one hand, able to convince the south which felt abandoned from the democratic party and still feels far away from the message of the League, and on the other hand, managed to exploit the greatest network of social media platforms in Italy, which secure 4-5 million viewers each time the movement posts something online.

The Democratic Party is with no doubt the single greatest loser of the elections - five years ago it was able to gather as much as 25,5% of the preferences (even though at the time Free and Equal was inside this party). The party has been governing for the last five years supporting three different governments guided by Letta, Renzi and, after last year’s constitutional referendum and Renzi’s dismiss, Gentiloni. After the results came out, Renzi, who meanwhile got elected again as the head of the party, resigned, but declared that his resignation will be valid only after the elections of the presidents of the two chambers.

The current Italian head of state, Sergio Mattarella will have to call the parties and give one of them an exploratory mandate to find a personality suited to be prime minister and a majority to elect the presidents of the two chambers. The problem is that the constitution doesn’t say whether the president should call the party with most votes or the coalition with most votes. In any case, both, the 5 Stars Movement and the right coalition don’t have enough seats to secure a majority in any of the two chambers. They will probably need the support from the center left coalition. The latter however, is affirming that it will stay at the opposition since it asserts that there are no conditions to support neither of the other two.

The markets didn’t react to the election’s results. This is because they were fearing a coalition between the populist 5 Star movement and the Eurosceptic League which for now seems unlikely considering the declarations of the parties in the vote’s aftermath.

Italy is famous for being ungovernable, this election brought a result that is no exception.




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