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Italy: Legislative Electoral Reform (Italicum)

(June 4, 2015) On May 23, 2015, new legislation governing the election of members of the Chamber of Deputies entered into effect. (Provisions Concerning the Elections of the Chamber of Deputies, Law No. 52 (May 6, 2015), GAZETTA UFFICIALE [G. U.] No. 105 (May 8, 2015), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).) The Law will apply to national legislative elections to be held from July 1, 2016, onwards. (Id. art. 1(i).) The declared purpose of the electoral reform is to replace the decades-old system of proportional representation and to guarantee durable majorities and stable governance to the Italian government. (Alessio Sgherza, Legge elettorale, ecco l’Italicum, REPUBBLICA.IT (Jan. 27, 2015) [cut and past title in search box to view].)

Italicum is the colloquial name given to the electoral reform introduced by the Law. Previous electoral reforms were nicknamed il Mattarellum (a tongue-in-cheek reference to the reform legislation’s rapporteur, Sergio Mattarella, current President of Italy), in 1993 (Legge Mattarella, il “Mattarellum,” CORRIERE.IT (May 29, 2013)) and il Porcellum (an ironical reference to a legislator’s calling the reform at the time “crap” (porcata)), in 2005 (Il Porcellum e noi, IL POST (Dec. 12, 2012)).

Highlights of the Reform

Under the new legislation, the national territory is subdivided into 20 electoral “circumscriptions,” corresponding to the existing regions. (Id. art. 2(2).) Each electoral circumscription is divided into 100 multi-member districts (collegi plurinominali), with the exception of the circumscriptions of Valle d’Aosta and Trentino-Alto Adige, which are subject to specific provisions. (Id. art. 1(1)(a).) A determination of the electoral districts will be made by a legislative decree to be enacted by the government within 90 days. (Id. arts. 1(1)(h) & 4(1).) Between three and nine seats are assigned to each district. (Id. art. 2(3).)

Candidates must be registered in each political party’s list in alternating order according to gender; candidates of the same gender may not make up more than 60% of all the candidates in each jurisdiction. (Id. art. 1(1)(b).) No one may be a candidate in more than one district or circumscription, with the exception of the candidate at the head of the list (candidato capolista), who may be a candidate in a maximum of ten districts. (Id. art. 1(1)(b).)

Each voter has one vote for the election of a party list, to be expressed on a single ballot bearing the mark of each list and the name of the candidate at the head of the list. (Id. art. 2(4).) Voters may cast their vote for up to two preferences for candidates among those candidates who are not heads of lists. (Id. art. 1(1)(c).) Voters who choose to vote for a second candidate within a list must opt for a candidate of the gender other than that of their first choice candidate. (Id. art. 2(4).) Violation of this provision nullifies the vote. (Id. art. 2(4).)

Chamber of Deputies seats are assigned to lists on a national basis. (Id. art. 1(1)(d).) To be eligible, a party must have at least 3% of the valid vote nationally, with some exceptions applicable to linguistic minorities. (Id. art. 1(1)(e).) Any party reaching a minimum of 40% of valid votes on a national basis may fill 340 seats, that is, 55% of the total number of legislative slots. (Id. art. 1(1)(f).) If no party receives 40% of the vote, a new election will be held between the two parties that had the highest number of votes. (Id. art. 1(1)(f).) The party with the most votes in the runoff election wins the 340 seats. (Id.) Voting coalitions of parties are forbidden in all situations. (Id. art. 1(1)(f).) The candidate head of the list that receives the highest number of votes is proclaimed as elected and, successively, the candidates that obtain the next highest number of preferences. (Id. art. 1(1)(g).)

Italian citizens who temporarily reside overseas are given the opportunity to vote by mail; details will be established by a governmental regulation. (Id. arts. 2(25)(6) & 2(37)(a).)

The most salient aspects of the legislation are further explained in a document on the website of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. (Riforma elettorale: Il contenuto della legge, CAMERA DEI DEPUTATI (Apr. 27, 2015).)