Italy |Explainer

Italy readies for first national general elections under new voting scheme

Beppe_Grillo, founder of the Five Star Movement in 2012 (File) Wikimedia Commons/Niccolò Caranti

The upcoming national Italian elections for parliament will be the first under a 2017 election law that was designed to address concerns the Constitutional Court had with the previous system. But critics, primarily in the opposition Five Star Movement party, contend that new method was designed to keep the ruling parties in place.

That’s because the law favors coalitions over stand-alone parties, and the Five Star Movement party refuses to be part of a coalition.

“For me, this is an institutional coup,” prominent Five Star member Alessandro Di Battista said in an October broadcast a few days before the election law was passed by both houses of the Italian Parliament. That was done through a  procedure called “fiducia,” and it saw center-left ruling Democratic Party discard five amendments sought by Five Star.

The law enjoyed support from several major parties, both in and out of power, and was passed last month by both houses of the Italian Parliament. The election must be held before May 20.

The results of a party going it alone can be stark.

A similar law was in place during the last general election, in 2013. Even though the Five Star Movement party won the most votes nationally for the Chamber of Deputies, it was awarded just 109 of the 630 seats. It was third behind two coalitions, the top one with four parties and the second-place alliance with three parties.


Though it received the largest share of votes in 2013, the Five Star Movement trailed two coalitions.

The rather bureaucratic-sounding Italian Electoral Law of 2017 is commonly referred to as Rosatellum bis, after Ettore Rosato, the Chamber of Deputies legislator who proposed it.

It cements in place an “additional-member system,” where a portion of the parliament is elected person-by-person in legislative districts, and nearly the rest is chosen by the parties, based on the proportion of the vote each receives. The new proportions are the same in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate:

A minority of each house is decided by winner-take-all direct vote, called first past the post. Most members are seated proportionally to their party’s share of the vote.

The members chosen through proportional representation are chosen by the party, not the voters. That puts considerable power in the hands of party leaders.

Critics of the new Italian system (Reuters) say coalitions are likely to benefit greatly in this system, and letting party leaders dole out seats can keep struggling or ineffective lawmakers in office. Further, critics say, the system has the effect of shouldering aside unwanted political adversaries.

With more than three months before the election, the field of candidates and the coalitions are not firmly set. Here’s a look at how things are shaping up.

Five Star Movement

Luigi Di Maio is the party’s candidate for prime minister, and polling shows him with a slim but steady lead with just over 25 percent, two points ahead of the Democratic Party. Of the 11 parties on which voters were polled, only four were in double digits.

The 31-year-old Di Maio often has been criticized in the Italian press for a mediocre professional background, in particular for lacking a master’s degree. He has held political office for five years and is the youngest-ever vice president of the Chamber of Deputies.

He speaks with a slight Neapolitan accent; the pace is slow, the argument concise. If Di Maio wins, he could pursue his parties bold environmental measures, such as ending carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

The Five Star Movement has often been attacked by the opposition and the partisan media for its administrations in the key cities of Rome and Turin. Those criticisms have caused party members to refrain from televised debates and caused the Five Star Movement to seek international help against “fake news”.

But the party has a strong internet presence, mainly through its official website and that of the founder of the party, Beppe Grillo.

The Five Star Movement started as irreverent and populist, much like its founder. Grillo is an actor and comedian who never abandoned his edgy voice as he became a political leader.

The late Dario Fo, an Italian who won a Nobel Prize for literature, said about Grillo: “To be a clown is very serious.”

The party structure is highly democratic. It was among the first parties in Europe to use participatory democracy methods (The Conversation) through its website. It expels any party member who is indicted.

The Democratic Party

Generally polling just behind the Five Star Movement is the fractured center-left Democratic Party. The party’s scission began in 2013, when it chose as its leader Matteo Renzi, who had been at centrist mayor of Florence.

He became prime minister the next year. He resigned in 2016 after he unsuccessfully pushed a national referendum to radically alter the structure of the parliament.   

Renzi is a Toscanaccio, which means hardheaded, and has a strong attitude about leadership that could end the Democratic Party as it is known today. Some think he may strike out on his own, much like French President Emmanuel Macron who split from the socialists.

The Progressivist Field

The new leftist party is led by the former mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia. Yesterday he has announced to the press that Progressivist Field will not be part of the coalition within the Democratic Party.

During the party’s recent assembly, Laura Boldrini, president of the Chamber of Deputies, she would not take part in today’s Democratic Party. The Italian press has said she could be a new potential candidate for the part. Boldrini has been threatened on Twitter often for endorsing the immigration policy of the European Union and for fighting fake news on the internet.

The Article One party

Other far left members of the Democratic Party broke off to found this party, whose name was inspired by the first job-right amendment of the Italian constitution. The party today features some of the old guards of the Italian left, who have had the virtue of performing a deep and intense philosophical, democratic and civic debate, though they have not led to the reforms Italy desperately needs.

Pietro Grasso, a former anti-mafia judge and current president of the Senate, recently announced to the press he will lead its own party “Free and Equal”.

Us With Salvini

Far-right candidate Matteo Salvini has his own party after being in a leadership position with the secessionist party Lega Nord.

Salvini has nationalist views similar to those of U.S. President Donald Trump and France’s Marine Le Pen, who was recently defeated in her run for prime minister. Salvini favors the same policies against both the immigration and the delocalization of the national enterprises.

The party has shown success, winning offices in Sicily. He’s widely considered to be an Islamophobe ( and opposed to accommodating refugees.

Recently, after his account was reported to Twitter for racist hate speech, he deleted a tweet that showed two Roma people digging into trash bins in Rome.

Forward Italy

The cake is crowned by the well known 82-year-old Silvio Berlusconi, who could not run because he has been interdicted from the public office functions, but he is still waiting for a decisional sentence of the Strasbourg Court (

Berlusconi has recently landed on Twitter for the first time, writing as usual of his old friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his hate for the “communist courts.” The party candidate is still unknown but is thought to be Antonio Tajani, who replied through a declaration released by AdnKronos press agency: “Berlusconi is the only Prime Minister.”

Berlusconi presented the party agenda for the 2018 elections and said to the Italian press, “Our program is fewer taxes, less euro, more job and security. Then the pension for our mothers, help the poor people and more rights for animals.”

The centre-right coalition to which his party belongs has won the recent Sicilian elections, and its governance is up to Nello Musumeci who has been elected governor of the autonomous region with about 40 percent of the vote.

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Talk (18)

Andrea G. Cammarata

Andrea G. Cammarata

"Thanks, Peter. I've just added some o..."
Peter Bale

Peter Bale

"Andrea, I have published this story. ..."
Andrea G. Cammarata

Andrea G. Cammarata

"Hi Steve, thanks for your reply. Grea..."

Steve Beatty

"Hi Andres, I'm asking my colleagues t..."


A dedicated reporter with a nose for the news, who has been a contributor to mainstream Italian journals as “La Repubblica” and “Il Fatto Quotidiano”. Former co-founder of “L’” online magazine. Attentively monitoring community and citizen journalism gaining a reputation for impeccable ethics. Focus on topics as organized crime, human rights, French/Italian politics, Balkan's facts, technology, health. An adept storyteller who researches the news with deep preparation; he lived for six months in the Southern Balkan (2012), Serbia and Macedonia, writing about independence Kosovo’s enhancement, Roma people issues, international cooperation and Albanian minority. In 2014, he has reported from Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) and Cambodia (Siem Reap) for six months working on human rights facts, photography and Vietnamese/Cambodian social issues.

History for Story "Italy readies for first national general elections under new voting scheme"

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  1. Time Contributor Edit
  2. JW Jimmy Wales (Contributions | Talk) Removing obsolete tag
  3. AH Alan Hewitt (Contributions | Talk)
  4. SB Steve Beatty (Contributions | Talk)
  5. Andrea G. Cammarata Andrea G. Cammarata (Contributions | Talk) Min.Edit. + Added link about Pietro Grasso and Berlusconi's Conflict of interest
  6. CT Clive Tabraham (Contributions | Talk) edit
  7. Andrea G. Cammarata Andrea G. Cammarata (Contributions | Talk) added freedom of press part
  8. Andrea G. Cammarata Andrea G. Cammarata (Contributions | Talk) Berlusconi conflict of interest added
  9. Andrea G. Cammarata Andrea G. Cammarata (Contributions | Talk) Min edit + Fiducia motion added for describing the law issues
  10. Andrea G. Cammarata Andrea G. Cammarata (Contributions | Talk) The picture has bias issues and affects the nuetrality of the article
  11. Andrea G. Cammarata Andrea G. Cammarata (Contributions | Talk) added Grasso's party, added Progressivist Field break with the coalition. minor grammar edit (center
  12. Peter Bale Peter Bale (Contributions | Talk) Added picture from Wikimedia
  13. Peter Bale Peter Bale (Contributions | Talk)
  14. Peter Bale Peter Bale (Contributions | Talk)
  15. Peter Bale Peter Bale (Contributions | Talk) Revised and published by Editor, PGB
  16. Andrea G. Cammarata Andrea G. Cammarata (Contributions | Talk) Added link for Grasso's party, grammar minor edit
  17. Andrea G. Cammarata Andrea G. Cammarata (Contributions | Talk) Update, Added Grasso's Party
  18. Andrea G. Cammarata Andrea G. Cammarata (Contributions | Talk) minor edit (grammar)
  19. Andrea G. Cammarata Andrea G. Cammarata (Contributions | Talk)
  20. SB Steve Beatty (Contributions | Talk) finished rewrite. Back to author.
  21. SB Steve Beatty (Contributions | Talk) mid rewrite update
  22. Andrea G. Cammarata Andrea G. Cammarata (Contributions | Talk)
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Talk for Story "Italy readies for first national general elections under new voting scheme"

Talk about this Story

  1. Andrea, I have published this story. You are welcome to keep it current and make any changes warranted. They will also go through an editor.

    1. Thanks, Peter. I’ve just added some of my thoughts and updates in the edit section as you suggested.
      Best regards, Andrea

  2. Hi Steve, thanks for your reply. Great, let’s wait for them so. Hopefully, we will not have to update the chronicle too much. Regards, Andrea.

  3. Hi Andres, I’m asking my colleagues to give this a look. I hope you saw that the original copy is still intact, below the rewrite. As I said, this is an interesting look at a new electoral method, and I believe we still have some time to publish it. Regards, Steve

  4. Hi Steve, I hope this finds you well? I have been working on the story a long time. And thanks for expanding how the law works, now it is better detailed. I appreciate also the improvement you offered on the form. But, please don’t disconcert my work again and if you would discard something, please be sure to offer me a motivation individually. Although I appreciate the effort you put reviewing all my work, I don’t think the editor vision is to have you on full rewriting contributor’s story. Best regards, Andrea

  5. Hi Steve, sorry for my previous response, I hadn’t seen your rewrite yet but I am reading now and will check and expand it by the next 12 hours if needed. Thanks, Andrea

  6. Hi Steve, do you mean a full rewrite of the part of the executive order? Thanks, Andrea

  7. Hi Andrea, Rather than the outline I thought I’d offer, I took on a full rewrite of the story. Take a look at how it stands now and let me know your thoughts, please. Without getting into the intricacies of how the law was fashioned, we just can’t say it was issued through executive order when, in fact, it was approved by Parliament. I appreciate that you say its final form was fashioned by the governing party now, but we need to explain precisely what happened. Regards, Steve

  8. Hi Steve, thanks for the reply. Rosatellum law was approved by both houses, but a consistent part of the law amendments of the opposition have been discarded by the government in charge by asking the “Fiducia”, which is an act of law definitely comparable to the executive order. In another way, the law would not have passed up to the two houses without this act of force called “Fiducia”. Regards, Andrea

  9. Thanks, Andrea, I appreciate the response. Let me try to lay out an outline within the WordPress file that I think can work. As far as the new election law being an executive order, I’m confused. This Wikipedia page says it was approved in both houses of parliament. If this is correct, how is this being issued by executive order?,_2018 See the section called “New electoral system.” Regards, Steve

  10. Hi Steve, we’re lucky the story is still actual. The introduction brings into the Rosatellum law, fact which is well discussed through the whole story, and I think that opens well without needing to explain further who is in power, as it comes clear in the second paragraph where is written about the democratic blueprint of the law. An executive order is clearly a distorted act of democracy for an electoral law, and it is a well known fact, but I’d like to expand this part. The rest of the story offers a portrait of the political situation in Italy, and we’ve to consider that the candidates are not decided yet. But there is plenty of infos on how things are going in the country and I wouldn’t change much about it. Thanks indeed for your insights. Regards, Andrea

  11. Hi Andrea, I’m sorry I haven’t responded sooner; I was on holiday here. I think the best approach to this would be to have a straight-forward, general beginning that explains the upcoming election to people who are coming to it with little to no knowledge (like me). Remember, you’re writing for an international audience that needs a basic framework before you launch into specifics. For instance, you now start by referring to “the opposition” but haven’t yet defined who’s in power and what kind of politics they have and what the opposition represents. Further, it seems that the new law being issued by executive order is significant, but it’s not clear to those of us without an understanding of how such laws are typically created. Let’s structure it like this: The elections set for WHEN are important to Italy and beyond because WHY (could have several reasons here). Recent local elections offer some clues as to the national mood. Complicating things further, there’s no clear signal from Berlusconi, so things are still in flux. Adding to the situation, a new election law has DONE WHAT. Here’s what we know so far: Then break down each party/candidate by sub-headline, sticking to the most central and verifiable facts for each. I would also list them from most prominent and likely to least, being sure to explain and back up why they’re prominent and likely. Although WikiTribune is separate and distinct from Wikipedia in content and tone, we still need a very straightforward approach for people interested but just coming to the topic. Make sense? I promise to be more responsive to your messages. Regards, Steve

  12. Hi Steve, I was wo If you had seen my talks in reply to my messages. Regards Andrea

  13. Also, yes this story would be a definitive list of candidates considering we still don’t know about Berlusconi and the centre-left. But the aim of the story is to present the political situation in Italy with regards to the General Election. Thanks

  14. Hi Steve, sorry I see your reply only now. I am not sure, but: Would you want me to have more personal comments from the sources that I’ve quoted in the story ? Quotes I’ve included in my story are already published in the mainstream media and have references attached in the story itself. Considering the caliber of the quotes I’ve mentioned, it would not be easy to obtain remarks. If there is something I can do in the specific I’ll be glad to do it ASAP. Thanks

  15. Hi Andrea. I’m an editor here at WT who will work through this story with you to get it published. What most of our readers will benefit from, I believe, is a straightforward list of candidates and likely candidates. You bring more to this topic than I ever could, so pardon my ignorance. Is this a complete list of those who have declared and are likely to? Is there a chance you can get in touch with them for remarks? Even with public figures, I don’t think we should be writing about people without giving them a chance to comment and add to our understanding of a topic. No one should be surprised to see his or her name on WikiTribune. Regards, Steve

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