Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Agreement on electoral reform in Italy?

Repubblica and the Corriere both report that the centre-left majority has reached agreement on electoral reform. The reform will replace the current law with a system similar to that used for regional elections. The text therefore is close to joint position of the centre-right, which augurs well for its chances of quick passage. By including constitutional reforms in the reform package, however, the centre-left ups the stakes.

On the basis of the coverage in Repubblica, we can say the following:

  • The reform is a type of bonus-adjusted proportional representation system

  • Candidates will be elected in constituencies (at least greater than 26)

  • There will be a national bonus in both the Senate and Camera on a national level

The precise details of the bonus, and details on the threshold, are unclear. Repubblica claims that "la soglia deve essere tanto minore quanto maggiore e` il premio di maggioranza" [the threshold will be smaller the greater the majority premium]. I don't understand why these two aspects of the system need to be linked. In any event, if the size of the constituencies is substantially reduced, the effective threshold based on constituency size may be more significant than the legal threshold. Again, though, details of the constituencies are not clear.

Additional constitutional reforms are included in the agreement:

  • Reduction from 630 to 400 deputies, and from 315 to 200 senators
  • end of perfect bicameralism
  • formal recognition of the Prime Minister's right to nominate and fire ministers
  • adoption of constructive vote of no-confidence

The agreement comes a day after the two main parties - DS and Margherita - agreed on a Spanish style electoral system as the only possible model. Members of the Udeur were apparently opposed to such a reform. According to a recent poll, the UDC's vote-share hovers around 2%, making it vulnerable to the higher effective thresholds of small constituencies in the Spanish style.

  • There are two stimuli for the reform:
  • the wish to avoid the possibility of conflicting majorities in the Camera and Senate, as almost happened last year; and
  • the wish to avoid a referendum promoted by Giovanni Guzzetta and Minister of Defence Arturo Parisi, which, in giving the majority premium to the largest single list (instead of the largest coalition of lists), would accelerate the formation of large single forces on left and right.

The reform text seems to be the smallest step capable of avoiding both of these possibilities. Given the effective veto power of all members of the coalition, who have vastly different electoral profiles, this is not surprising.

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