46 thoughts on “Italian election discussion

  1. It will be interesting to see if exit polls on Monday correctly forecast the election outcome: both in 2006 and 2008 Berlusconi’s center-right coalition did substantially better than originally predicted at the closing of the polls.

    (Incidentally, this is by no means an exclusively Italian problem: here in Puerto Rico a major newspaper exit poll has had similar issues in the last two gubernatorial elections, and while the matter passed largely unnoticed in 2008 because the race was wide open, in last November’s close vote they had the actual winner losing by a sizable margin.)

  2. As of 7 PM CET, voter turnout in Italy’s Chamber of Deputies election is up to 46.8% in Italy proper, down from 49.2% five years ago.

    There are significant regional variations in the turnout rate change: some areas are reporting a slightly higher turnout than in 2008 but in others – most notably Lombardia and Campania (both considered to close to call in the Senate vote) – turnout is sharply lower. At the same time, the Italian news media is reporting poor weather conditions throughout Italy (snow in the center-north, rain in the south), which may or may not explain such variations.

  3. I’d argue that every system should include a corrective bonus along the lines of the Malta rules. It should apply equally to single parties and to coalitions declared before the election. It should only make up the deficit between popular and parliamentary votes.

    Reversed pluralities are just never a good idea.

  4. How many systems truly need such a corrective bonus? I would think it would only apply to FPTP elections or to those with small PR constituencies where the national seat total is only based on the sum of the small constituencies. It would have been useful in the US House of Representatives at 2010, but otherwise the combination of gerrymandering by both parties in different states generally results in seat totals closely reflecting the national vote.

    I’m not at all opposed to a “majority-assuring” system, but I think such a majority should be determined at the ballot box, not simply by granting a majority to the largest bloc. I guess one way to put it into effect would be to hold an AV election between prospective government coalitions, and to otherwise divide the seats proportionally based on a single-party vote.

  5. I think Alan’s comment, and then Chris’s response, really were intended for the BAPR thread.

    May I suggest that we keep this one to the current Italian election?

  6. Why do they have a two-day election period-I don’t think there’s another European country that has a single ballot election over two consecutive days, is there?

  7. I would guess that it’s to allow those people who have to work on Monday to vote on Sunday, and to also give the opportunity to vote to those people who are either too religious to vote on the Sabbath or else have to work on Sunday, but that’s entirely conjecture. Does anyone know if that’s accurate?

  8. We’ve all discussed the BAPR system governing the allocation of Camera-seats between parties (and coalitions) at the national level, but does anyone understand how those seats are then awarded to the lists in the electoral districts?

  9. Corriere della Sera and ANSA report that exit polls have the center-left ahead by four to eight percentage points over Berlusconi, with Beppe Grillo’s Five Stars Movement running a strong third at just under twenty percent, and Mario Monti below ten percent in a distant fourth place.

    That said, in 2006 exit polls forecast a comparable lead for the center-left coalition, but in the end the outcome proved to be extremely close

  10. What a spectacular rejection of the results of technocratic government, if Monti’s collapse is actually reflected in the final results-contrast with the crushing victory of the pro-austerity centre-right in Cyprus in this week’s presidential election.

    Maybe European electorates are taking austerity as a given and punishing whoever happens to be holding the ball at the particular moment. That threat is probably the only thing keeping the British coalition together right now.

  11. I’m not convinced, DC… ‘austerity’ governments are being treated differently from country to country, and although the general trend is negative, it’s more complex than that. Specifically in Italy, I think the reaction is indeed against the technocratic government, but not simply because it was the one behind austerity… after all, Monti was not (exclusively) the one who introduced the policy. I believe democratic legitimacy is also playing a role.

    It is not what I see on the Electoral Commission’s website, but the media are reporting a split House/Senate result. Will such a result finally put Italy on a path to true reform of its institutions?

  12. Bloomberg is suggesting the right are ahead in Sicily and Campania and that evwn Bersani+Monti may lack

  13. …a Senate majority.

    Would that lead to a formal national unity government lead by Bersani, or just a government with a highly unpredictable Senate?

  14. JD, it appears the center-right looks set to retain a plurality of Senate seats, while the center-left will have an absolute Chamber of Deputies majority, courtesy of BAPR.

    This outcome may not be immediately clear from partial results published by the Interior Ministry: not only are there substantial regional variations in the voting patterns, but also some regions are further behind than others in the vote counting process, which inevitably skews the nationwide totals.

    At any rate, my caution regarding exit polling seemingly proved to be well founded…

  15. http://m.guardiannews.com/world/2013/feb/25/italian-election-results-live-coverage

    The Demos research on the 5 Star Movement. There are a lot of superficial similarities to the Tea Party, but Grillo’s supporters are mostly young and middle aged men. Most significantly, 74% of them trust ‘the internet,’ whilr only 11% trust the press, and even less trust other institutions.

    Based on the comments there, it appears a unity govt isn’t even in the realm of possibility and they may be heading for a second election. One would hope they either alter perfect bicameralism or alter the Senate electoral system beforehand.

  16. The Italian press is reporting that Grillo’s M5S may emerge as the largest single party (popular vote-wise).

    Meanwhile, according to La Repubblica, Bersani+Monti would only have 121 of the 301 Senate seats in Italy proper (minus Valle d’Aosta and Trentino-Alto Adige) – two fewer than Berlusconi’s coalition.

  17. Yes, at the moment it does seem that Grillo’s M5S might have won the majority in the Chamber, due to BAPR and the fragmented vote. But it’s still not clear–it seems it’s a real three-way race.

    The Senate may have no majority.

    I think this would mean a second election–and no likelihood of any electoral reform in the interim.

  18. I don’t know about ‘no likelihood’ of reform. The Italians have been trying to reform it essentially since it was created, and almost no one likes it.

    The Greeks, on the other hand, had nevet seriously considered reforms other than increasing the number of bonus seats in response to gradual losses in support for the big parties, and there was no popular demand considering the three parliamentary minor parties prior to the collapse were the hard new left Syriza, the Stalinist KKE, and populist-nationalist Laos.

    After the ND-Anel split, the electoral collapse of Pasok, and the rise of Syriza to major party status and the entrance of neo-Nazi XA to the Vouli, it was too late. The coalition formation laws were strict (9 total days for 3 party leaders, compared to the 42 days Bibi has in Israel and the months/years allowed in Belgium and Holland) and once no government could be formed, a caretaker cabinet was formed and the Vouli immediately dissolved-there was no chance to change the electoral code.

    Italy has as much time as they want to give themselves. If both the Democrats and the Berlusconi bloc think they can win undet an altered election law, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them cooperate. Coming up with a consensus plan is another question, but I highly doubt Napolitano will dissolve parliament if he doesn’t think new elections will change the composition.

    Also, I didn’t realise Grillo isn’t a candidate. When else has a partu’s leadet not stood in an election? The only place I can think of is South Africa 2009, where Zille chose to run for Premier of Western Cape.

  19. No, I’m not convinced MS5 will opt for more chaos. I think they yet may support a Bersani government, given appropriate concessions, perhaps including a few ministerial positions.

  20. M5S is going to have a large and inexperienced parliamentary group-so who knows where it could end up. It could implode quite rapidly Lijst Pim Fortuyn style. They do have a very definite reform agenda, including electoral reform-at the very least the BAPR system may get modified (in the direction of some sort of preference voting, and I think they are generally hostile to the Porcellum in any case.) If and how Grillo plans on keeping this group committed to its ostensible anti-systemic objectives is going to be quite an interesting scenario, I think.

  21. Any expectation of reform before a new election assumes (1) there is a single model of reform that the various players can agree on, and (2) in the meantime they have formed a government, even a temporary “unity” government.

    Those seem like really big assumptions to me.

    There is a third assumption that may be even bigger: that the agreed alternative model could be implemented–I mean technically–in a matter of months.

  22. @JD-The technocratic govt certainly played a role in the rise of M5S, it seems to me. It should be said austerity isn’t a question of left and right-in that the broad “European” centre basically agrees with it, with more or fewer reservations. Challenges from the left and from the extreme right have been marginalised by the TINA doctrine-the SP and to an extent the PVV in the Netherlands being a good example. It seems to have fallen somewhat flat in the Italian case, but the general moral disarray of the Italian political system at the best of times might have more to do with it?

  23. Of course, there’s another possibility, which was floated around back in early 2007, when Prodi’s center-left government nearly collapsed after losing a Senate vote: an upper house-only
    poll. However, nothing ever came out of it, as Prodi managed to remain in office for another year, until his government was brought down by a Senate confidence vote.

    As for M5S imploding Lijst Pim Fortuyn-style, I think that remains a distinct possibility, but I’m of the view that Fortuyn’s murder played a decisive role in his party’s rapid decline.

    A far less dramatic – and rather typically Italian – scenerario would involve some of M5S’ parliamentarians enticed to jump ship (to put it diplomatically), triggering a party split.

  24. Meanwhile, with just under 80% of the vote tallied, Bersani remains narrowly ahead of Berlusconi in the Chamber of Deputies vote (30.1% to 28.6%), with Grillo not far behind at 25.5%…and just below the Democrats’ 26%.

    Of course, with BAPR the Democrats will have almost three times as many Chamber seats as M5S – assuming Bersani’s coalition retains its narrow lead, that is.

  25. An upper house only poll wouldn’t be a horrible idea (though it reminds me of Gough Whitlam trying to call early half Senate elections in 1975), but it’s hard to know if that would change the results. At best, Bersani would take enough regions back to have a narrow majority in the Senate in coalition with Monti, and at worst they’ll spend millions on a new poll which changes nothing or even exacerbates the Camera-Senate split.

    I think one thing they should consider is just changing the electoral system for one chamber and calling new elections. I thought of the possibility of switching the Senate to pure PR in the regions, but that probably would just eliminate the possibility of one alliance winning a majority in both chambers. If they were to do that, I would think smaller Senate constituencies with the distortion of d’Hondt could help, though I doubt splitting regions will help. They alternately could award seats withineach region proportionally, and then award a national bonus based on either most votes or most seats.

    It would seem the easiest solution would be to remove the Senate’s power to block supply or vote no confidence, but I don’t know if that’s on the table or not

  26. As I recall, back in 2005 Berlusconi also wanted a nationwide majority bonus for the Senate, but he was told by then-President Ciampi and a group of “wise old men” advising on the matter that it would not pass constitutional muster, hence the regional bonuses.

    I agree that the simplest solution would be to make the government solely responsible to the Chamber of Deputies, but the Senate’s power on that regard are enshrined in Italy’s constitution, so I don’t see that happening any time soon.

  27. Out of curiosity… Does anyone in the Italian political and journalistic class ever look a few leagues (NPI) south to Malta and ponder, “Hmm… a two-party parliament for nearly five decades, and the main gripe with the electoral system is that now and then one party polls over 50% of the votes in its own right but falls a few seats short of an absolute majority. We should be so lucky…”?

    Or is it simply taken as read by the Segni-style reformers that the way to promote electoral and parliamentary consolidation is by threatening parties sharply spiked sticks, rather than offering them enticingly cooked carrots?

  28. “Dai nostri calcoli emerge che se nelle rimanenti 7.327 sezioni l’affluenza sarà uguale a quella delle 54119 sezioni già scrutinate, Berlusconi vincerà alla Camera se avrà un margine di 6,6 punti percentuali su Bersani.”

    –Roberto D’Alimonte, explaining projections that suggest Berlusconi will win the Chamber of Deputies.

  29. Latest RAI senate projections are 113 right, 105 left, 63 M5*, and 20 Monti. Bersani has more votes, with 31.0% to Berlusconi’s 30.4, Grillo’s 24.4%, and Monti’s 9.5. This is with 90% counted.

    Grillo has said the only solution is a PD-PDL coalition. I can’t see that happening. What might be more realistic is convincing the Grillini in the Senate to abstain on confidence and supply, at least for a year or two, giving Bersani+Monti a 125-113 lead over Berlusconi. The PD has said ‘returning to the polls is not the solution.’

    Has the possibility of extending the Senate franchise to 18-24 year olds been seriously discussed, and would this alter the result in enough regions (or just Lombardia) to change the result? The PDL might oppose it, but the Grillini would seem to be likely to strongly support the idea.

  30. Comparing differences between successive reports issued by the Interior Ministry, I note that the latest returns haven’t always been as skewed in favor of Berlusconi, so I’m not 100% certain Professor D’Alimonte’s prediction will come to pass – although I don’t rule it out either.

    That said, M5S is now the largest single party in terms of the Chamber of Deputies popular vote – Grillo just overtook the Democrats a few minutes ago.

  31. With 99% of the vote counted, it appears Bersani will have a Chamber majority after all: as Professor D’Alimonte has noted on his latest blog update, Berlusconi can only win the lower house by securing an improbably large lead in what little remains to be tallied – and it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

  32. @JD, The programme of M5S doesn’t go into great detail, but from reading Grillo’s English-language blog over the last year or so, they seem to object to the closed lists used in the porcellum, linking it to abuse of parliamentary immunity (they would also like to prevent convicted felons from entering parliament)-also Grillo was apparently quite critical of attempts by Monti to reform the electoral law last year (to give the bonus to the largest party rather than alliance, if I understand correctly).

  33. Corriere della Serra has a nice table illustrating the collapse of the traditional parties since 2008 in raw votes-its quite astonishing.

  34. DC: “they would also like to prevent convicted felons from entering parliament”. Isn’t this already the case? I read Beppe Grillo wasn’t standing for election because of his conviction for manslaughter.

  35. @I think it might have something to do with Berlusconi-style perpetual appeals? Didn’t know that about Grillo, his absence makes more sense now.

  36. It strikes me that the BAPR system is not working out the way it was probably intended to work.

    I’m wondering about bicameralism in the context of Italy (specifically why both chambers needed to be elected simultaneously).

    • Fragano, the pre-election thread authored by Gianluca Passarelli includes some discussion of Italy’s bicameralism. Given that the two chambers have exactly equal powers, I think it is critical that they be elected concurrently. The bigger issue is the exactly symmetrical powers, otherwise essentially unknown in parliamentary democracies (though we could say Australia de facto has a similar situation).

      BAPR was “successful” in its first two elections in encouraging nearly all the parties to coordinate around one of two big blocs. But this election shows the problem with electoral systems engineered to have a strong majoritarian effect: they are fine when there is coordination, but pretty disastrous when there is not.

      Anyway, the initial intention was as much to sow discord within the left as anything else, and for a time, it did work to do that. And I would expect continuing discord in Bersani’s alliance if it manages to form a government. So maybe it still works as Silvio intended.

      Thanks for the comment; come back often!

  37. Interestingly, Grillo legally could have been a candidate, despite his conviction for vehicular homicide, but since M5S is calling for a legal ban on convicted felons holding public office, he decided that “do as I do” was a better message than just “do as I say,” and noluit episcopari, so to speak.

    Hell, I’d vote for a politician that principled, be his party only 6-12 months old.

  38. Even though money bills constitutionally have to start in the House, for all intents and purposes the US is perfectly bicameral. Obviously the executive doesn’t depend on both chambers for confidence, but as the last few years have demonstrated to the world, both chambers have to agree on supply.

    House and Senate elections aren’t exactly simultaneous (as only a third of the Senate is up every two years), and even if they had been this time, I think control would still have been split due to the different electoral systems.

    Therefore, while I don’t think it would be wise to have split elections, I don’t think it’s essential for them to be held together. It also could help if they held the Senate election a few weeks after the House (esp considering the franchise is unequal) so that the Senate voters know who won the House. It might have a similar effect to France’s split elections, though majoritarian voting certainly helps the president win the Assembly there.

  39. Chris, my comment to Fragano was concerned only with parliamentary democracies. Most certainly, the US case is one of fully symmetric bicameralism, and also highly incongruent. The same is true of several other presidential systems.

    I am using these terms in the sense meant by Lijphart:

    Symmetry: how similar are the two chambers’ powers?

    Congruent: how similar are the two chambers’ political constituencies?

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