It’s been a battle royal with squabbles galore but Italy’s Prime Minister has managed to impose an electoral law reform on Italy, or just about.
Under the new law, any party that wins more than 40% of the overall vote will be awarded 340 out of 630 seats thus guaranteeing a majority. In the event that no party reaches the 40% threshold, there will be a second-round run-off between the two parties with the most votes. Whichever party wins the run-off election will end up with a majority in what is presently Italy’s lower house. The role of Italy’s upper house is soon to be diminished making the lower house the principal law making body.
Now the controversial electoral law – which will bring about the death of democracy in Italy according to a Berlusconi crony – has been voted through both of Italy’s houses of parliament, the next hurdle is the signature of Italy’s President Mattarella. If Mr Mattarella is not happy, he can send the election reform back down to Italy’s parliament for amendment, but if it is not amended and passes once more though both houses, he will be obliged to sign the election reform into law. If, however, the election law is amended, then any changes will have to be voted on and the law could end up in vote hell until a final version is hammered into existence. The process could take years.
Will President Mattarella send the law back down to Italy’s parliament?
This is an unknown but it is also relatively unlikely. Aside from President Mattarella being Mr Renzi’s choice, it is probable that Mr Renzi has already consulted Mr Mattarella over the constitutionality of the law and so he can be more or less certain the election reform will become reality. The law may still be challenged though or put to a referendum. If the referendum result does not favour the law, then it ceases to exist. Opposition parties are threatening to call a referendum though whether they will, or can, is not yet known.
Even if a referendum is not held, the constitutionality of the election law can be challenged through Italy’s courts though by the time a decision has been taken, general elections will most probably have been held. Italy’s previous election law was rendered invalid by a court decision though elections held under the law were not rendered invalid.
Overall, it it looking as Mr Renzi’s election law reform will come into effect and will apply to general elections held after July 2016. If this happens, then the governments elected under the law should stand a fighting chance of staying in power for their full terms.
An End to Revolving Door Governments
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Up to now, Italy’s governments since the end of World War 2 have lasted an average of 374 days. Such short lived governments should become a thing of the past and Italy should save a pretty penny or two on the cost of elections. Not only this, but the law also forces, in part, Italy’s parties to attempt to engage voters at a local level and this should mean politicians who reflect the desires of their voters as opposed to the former system which had led to the nation’s politicians becoming exceptionally distant from voters. As a result, Italians have become more and more reluctant to vote. The new election system might change this and Italy might end up with politicians who are less self-interested than in the past. We’ll see but not until around 2018 which is when the nation’s current Prime Minister may go to the nation. 2018 is quite a long way off and anything could happen in the meantime, and knowing Italy, it probably will!
Setting aside the unexpected, and unpredictable, on paper, the election reform sounds rather good, only some worry that while longer lived governments may result, there is no guarantee that they will be decent governments as this Italy watcher and at least one Italian academic have pointed out.
All Steam Ahead Mr Renzi!
Despite worries over the quality of government the election law reform will produce, the passing of the reform represents a major victory for Italy’s Prime Minister and he knows it. Now, he can forge ahead with other reforms and a number are on the cards.
Italy can expect reforms in most of its traditional problem areas. The nation’s education, justice, and fiscal systems are to be reformed as is Italy’s red tape loving public sector. The nation’s banking systems is being restructured and reinforced too. Italy’s employment system is being reformed though the effect of the sections of the reform that are now law have not yet been felt and unemployment levels are still rising.
This Italy observer suspects that Italy’s economy may begin to pick up once the other reforms become reality. While this will not happen overnight, what Prime Minister Renzi is banking on is that the effects of his reforms will become evident by the time general elections are called in 2018, or so. Or else his party won’t win the elections.
Is Italy now heading in a better direction? Probably, but it will still have to make up some ground to replace those businesses which went under as a result of the recession and Italy’s largely tiny businesses are still not as healthy as they could be. The election law reform is merely the start.