Italians vote – but how?

Italians head to the polls to elect their next parliament, which will, in turn, choose a new prime minister. But things are not as simple as they seem…

The Italian elections actually combine two different systems – on one ballot.

Let’s take a look at the House.

The room will have 400 seats in total. 245 seats are allocated by proportional representation, and 147 seats according to the principle of pluralism in single districts. The remaining eight are distributed by Italians living abroad, and also by proportional representation.

The 245 proportional seats are allocated to party lists according to their total share of the national vote. This distribution is similar to the voting systems found in most European countries, including Spain, Sweden and Belgium.

At the same time, 147 seats will be allocated through a plurality system. This means that the candidate with the most votes wins the seat, even if the margin of the closest competitor is small. In other words, the winner gets it all.

This system is common in most English-speaking countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, and has often been criticized for creating an uneven majority.

How is all this done in practice?

When voters go to the polls, they find a unique ballot paper with the names of the candidates and the parties they support. Voters can select the candidate’s name, the party’s name, or both at the same time. Since the system operates in parallel, each vote counts for relative and majority mandates.

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Italian electoral law was drafted by liberal MP Ettore Rosato, and is now known as Rosatilum.

The dual system should favor alliances, harm individual parties, and cultivate a culture of negotiation and compromise. But it failed to defuse the problem of political instability and infighting in Italy.

Since the last elections in 2018, Italy has had three different governments: two under Giuseppe Conte and one led by Mario Draghi. They all separated before the expiration of their legal tenure.

The next government will be Italy’s fourth… in less than five years.

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