The Italian Election Unravelled

The complexity of Italian politics is always interesting and sometimes rather puzzling for the outsider.

I have been asked many times in the past few weeks how the Italian electoral system works and what will happen now after the hung election to try to unravel what looks like a stalemate, so a new government might be achieved.

To start let’s look at how the parliament is made up. There are two chambers both with elected members and a few unelected ones. The Chamber of Deputies is elected on a national basis and the Senate is elected on a regional basis, there are also five life senators appointed by the President of the Republic.

The first hurdle after the election was passed quickly and almost without a hitch, that was the election of the two house speakers by the members at the opening session of parliament. This was very important, as the President of the Senate is the second most important person in the country, deputising for the President of the Repubblic if he is indisposed. The third is the speaker of the House of Deputies. The surprisingly quick resolution of this problem was due to an agreement between M5S (Cinque Stelle) and the Lega and Forza Italia ((FI), which are a part of the center-right alliance.  Roberto Fico (M5S) was elected speaker to the House of Deputies and Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati (FI) for the Senate. If the election had had a clear result the whole process would be more of a ritual and the leader of the winning coalition parties would be appointed. The Prime minister would then go through a vote of confidence in both chambers and work would begin.

However the recent election resulted in no clear winner, the reason for this was that the previous government wasn’t able to devise a new electoral law, which would give a clear winner. Matteo Renzi leader of the Partito Democratico (PD), the center-left former Prime Minister tried but the people voted against it in a referendum.

The President of The Republic Sergio Matterella will, therefore, start his consultation with all the parties in the hope that a name will come out that is acceptable to all parties and a coalition government can be formed.  It is very unlikely that a candidate will be proposed during the first round of talks, therefore Mattarella will be forced to start the second round hoping the parties will have modified their position, it might well be necessary to go to a third round but if the delay is too long and there is no progress then the President can nominate a candidate who doesn’t necessarily have to be a politician. The nominee would put forward an agenda and ask for a vote of confidence from the two chambers. If the appointee won the vote the work of governing would start immediately. If on the other hand the vote was lost the President would be forced to dissolve Parliament and call another election.

The position of the political parties at the moment is:

M5S is the party that obtained the most votes (nearly 33%) and is willing to form a government under Luigi di Maio (the leader of the movement) with the Lega (18%) and the rest of the center-right coalition but without Berlusconi. FI and the Lega find the idea unacceptable.

M5S is also happy to form a government with the PD with Luigi di Maio as Prime Minister, the majority would be very tight but Matteo Renzi and his followers are against it.

The crucial talks have started so we will all be watching to see if the parties will come up with a solution so Italy can get back to work.


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