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Italian Election Guide
The electoral system, the parties, the issues and the possible outcomes, explained.
Italians vote in early elections on September 25. All 400 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 200 elected seats in the Senate will be contested.
Here is everything you need to know.
Constitutional reforms in 2020 reduced the Chamber of Deputies from 630 to 400 members, and the Senate from 315 to 200 elected members. (There are six senators-for-life, including former prime minister Mario Monti.)
Of the 400 deputies:
147 will be elected by plurality, or winner-takes-all, in single-member districts (similar to elections in the United Kingdom and the United States);
245 will be elected by proportional representation nationwide (similar to the Netherlands); and
8 will be elected by proportional representation in four constituencies for Italians abroad: North America, South America, Eurasia and the rest of the world.
Of the 200 senators:
74 will be elected by plurality in single-member constituencies;
122 will be elected by proportional representation in 21 regional constituencies (similar to Spain); and
4 will be elected by Italians abroad.
Italy has dozens of political parties. Many are small and running under the list of a major party. For example, the Sardinian Action Party, which has one senator, is running in Sardinia under the banner of the right-wing League. Various left-wing parties have grouped with the Democrats.
The major parties in turn have formed coalitions that are committed to go into government together. There are three: the right, led by Giorgia Meloni; the left, led by former prime minister Enrico Letta; and the liberal Third Pole of the Action party and Italia Viva, led by Carlo Calenda. The populist Five Star Movement is contesting the election on its own.
In order to qualify for single-member seats, a party must obtain at least 1 percent of the votes nationally and belong to a coalition that gets at least 10 percent support. In order to qualify for national (Chamber of Deputies) and regional (Senate) seats, a party must win at least 3 percent nationally.
High living costs, caused by record-high gas prices and forty year-high inflation, are the main issue in the election.
The right-wing parties would cut sales tax on energy and basic goods, cut taxes for the self-employed, raise child benefits and minimum pensions, expand opportunities for early retirement and partly pay for it by abolishing the “citizens’ income” — a guaranteed minimum income for jobseeker — the Five Star Movement and League introduced when they were in government in 2019.
The left has no common platform, but the Democrats would cut low- and medium-income taxes, introduce a minimum wage of €9 per hour and raise salaries in education and health care. The Five Stars would abolish regional business taxes (which are an important source of income for League-governed industrial states in the north).
The Democrats would cap electricity and gas prices and provide renewable energy to low-income households at cost. The right-wing parties prefer nuclear power.
The Five Stars would issue eurobonds to finance an EU energy recovery fund, modeled on the €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund, of which Italy is the largest recipient. The right wants to renegotiate the terms of that bailout, but it hasn’t given specifics. One of the EU’s conditions they oppose is liberalization of beach clubs and taxis.
The Democrats want to make it easier for the children of immigrants to obtain Italian citizenship. The right-wing coalition wants to keep immigrants out, including by setting up EU-run “hot spots” in North Africa where asylum requests would be assessed.
The Democrats want to legalize cannabis.
None of the major parties have pledged to reverse the defense spending increases Draghi implemented, nor to withdraw Italian support from Ukraine. Although none would add to it either, and Italy has been one of the least generousallies.
The far-right Brothers of Italy and center-left Democratic Party have been neck and neck in the polls with 24-25 and 21-23 percent support, respectively. But the combined right is clearly ahead with 45 to 48 percent against 28-29 percent for the left.
The League is in third place with 12-13 percent. Its popularity has come down from a high of 35 percent two years ago. Matteo Salvini made a huge mistake when he blew up his coalition with the Five Star Movement in 2019, which paved the way first for the center-left government of Giuseppe Conte, which was succeeded by the unity government of Mario Draghi.
Conte’s Five Star Movement has also disappointed voters, going down from 33 percent support in the 2018 election to 11-14 percent in the polls. It has been further weakened by the defection of outgoing foreign minister Luigi Di Maio’s Civic Commitment, which is polling at 1 percent.
Forza Italia is a shadow of its former self with 7-8 percent support.
The liberal Action and former prime minister Matteo Renzi’s Italia Viva are polling at 5 to 8 percent.
Data analyst Gianmarco Di Lella gives the right a 95-percent chance of winning majorities in both chambers with 246 deputies and 125 senators.
The center-left would win 88 deputies and 44 senators, the Five Star Movement 40 deputies and 22 senators, and the Third Pole 18 deputies and 9 senators.
Center-right: The almost-certain outcome. A coalition of the Brothers of Italy, League and Forza Italia, led by Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s first woman prime minister.
Grand coalition: Keeping Meloni out of the Palazzo Chigi would require the Democrats, League, Five Star Movement and Forza Italia to work together. They did under Draghi, but the last three parties quit the unity government. Why would they restore it? Especially when it allowed the Brothers to steal away disaffected right-wing voters from the League and Forza?
Renzi’s chance: I don’t see Salvini making the same mistake twice. But if Berlusconi could somehow be convinced to team up with the Democrats and Five Stars, the Christian democrats of Us Moderates — the smallest party in the right-wing alliance — and liberals of Action and Italia Viva might just be able to put such a centrist coalition over the top. More likely, though, Renzi, who was prime minister between 2014 and 2016, will once again fail to make a comeback.