Saturday

25th Nov 2017

Analysis

Italian ruling opens way for new elections

  • The Chamber of Deputies. No party currently clears the 40 percent threshold that would translate into a solid majority and offer Italy the prospect of more stable government. (Photo: Manfred Heyde)

Italian judges have delivered a highly anticipated ruling that simplifies the path towards an early dissolution of parliament and elections this year.

The Constitutional Court struck down some elements of the so-called Italicum election law – a piece of legislation pushed through by former prime minister Matteo Renzi that aimed to create stable governments by changing voting rules for the lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Renzi's critics argued that the changes, which included a second round of voting and bonus seats for the biggest party, would put too much power into the hands of the winner.

But the judges refrained from completely tearing down Renzi's law, which would have forced parliament to engage in a far more arduous process of rewriting voting rules from scratch.

They scrapped the second-round ballot and limited the ability of top candidates to run in multiple constituencies, turning the law into a straight proportional representation system with a 3 percent threshold for entering parliament.

“It’s a sensible ruling. Judges kept their meddling to a minimum,” Francesco Clementi, a public law professor close to Renzi and his Democratic Party (PD), told EUobserver.

“We now have a constitutionally sound election law, ready to be used for immediate elections,” the leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), comedian Beppe Grillo, wrote on his blog, which he uses to set the party’s agenda. “There are no more excuses,” he added.

Stumbling blocks

Politics had gone into virtual standstill ahead of the verdict. Last month, when Renzi resigned following a stinging defeat in constitutional referendum, a weak, transitional government led by former foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni was installed to manage the country for the tail-end of the parliamentary term, running until early 2018 at the latest.

Though Renzi, the M5S and two other anti-establishment parties – the right-wing Northern League and Brothers of Italy (FdI) – clamoured for a snap election, president Sergio Mattarella made it clear that he would not call them while dysfunctional election laws were still in place, leaving Italy’s electoral calendar dependent on the Constitutional Court.

Yet, even if the Constitutional Court’s findings can be immediately applied into law, there are still a few stumbling blocks before Italian voters could be called to the ballot box.

Voting rules for the upper chamber, the Senate, should be aligned with what has been established for the Chamber to minimise the risk of elections producing conflicting results and a hung parliament.

No solid majority

Senate election rules – themselves the result of a Constitutional Court ruling from 2014 – also envisage a proportional system, but with no majority bonus for the winner and a few other, more arcane differences.

Most observers agree that the easiest solution for lawmakers would be to apply the corrected Italicum to the upper chamber, but this would require a parliamentary passage fraught with risks.

“It could take as little as two to three weeks,” and clear the way for elections in the spring, the M5S’s spokesman on constitutional affairs, Danilo Toninelli, told EUobserver.

No party currently clears the 40 percent threshold that would translate into a solid majority and offer Italy the prospect of more stable government.

The most recent opinion poll averages calculated by the Termometro Politico website have the PD on 30.3 percent, the M5S on 27.7 percent, the Northern League on 13.1 percent, Silvio Berlusconi’s mainstream right-wing Forza Italia opposition on 12.7 percent and far-right FdI on 4.6 percent.

Flawed architecture

M5S has a long-standing promise not to join with other parties. If it reneged on this, it could form a formidable alliance with the Northern League and FdI, which could conceivably find common ground on a platform to take Italy out of the euro.

Grillo’s party is no stranger to U-turns – this month it tried to jump from the eurosceptic to the pro-EU liberal group in the European Parliament, then rowed back to its original position.

But M5S stalwarts are insisting that they will stick to their no-coalitions policy in Italy, and that they will come to power on their own.

“The Five Star Movement cannot cut deals with these other parties, the ones which have plunged the country into its current state of misery, and have led people to start voting for us. It would be simply against our fundamental beliefs,” Toninelli told this website.

Whichever party or coalition comes out on top after the next elections, it is likely to be under pressure to stop tinkering with electoral and constitutional arrangements, a constant distraction in the last three decades.

Yet it remains to be seen if more bread-and-butter issues, like reining in a huge public debt and kick-starting growth and jobs, can be tackled effectively with such flawed political structures.

Analysis

Italy seeks new PM as banks languish

President Sergio Mattarella is aiming to name a successor to Matteo Renzi early next week, all while rumours are growing of a state plan to save ailing Monte de Paschi bank.

Italy starts talks on post-Renzi government

Italian power-brokers begin efforts to form a new government, amid growing concern over the fragile banking system and calls from opposition parties for a general election.

Italy referendum spooks eurozone

Prime minister Matteo Renzi's resignation, followed by a crushing rejection of his reforms, has sent the euro plunging against the dollar and put the country's fragile banking system at risk.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Germany remains 'active' in EU
  2. Work with Israel, Egypt on gas exploration, says Commission
  3. Only seven EU states have 'advanced' stage climate plans
  4. EU dashes integration hopes of eastern countries
  5. EU approves joint Irish electricity scheme
  6. German president to launch 'Grand Coalition' talks
  7. Irish opposition 'threatens national interest', says minister
  8. SPD drops opposition to grand coalition in Germany

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  4. European Friends of ArmeniaPresident Sargsyan Joined EuFoA Honorary Council Inaugural Meeting
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  6. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  8. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  9. EPSUStudy Finds TUNED and Employers in Central Governments Most Representative
  10. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  11. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  12. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  2. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  3. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  5. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  6. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  7. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  8. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  10. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  11. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  12. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education