• Italy's news in English
 

Can Renzi's new law revamp Italian politics?

Published: 22 Jan 2014 11:32 GMT+01:00

Matteo Renzi’s announcement this week comes six weeks after an Italian court ruled the country’s current election law partly unconstitutional.

The court said in December that elections under the current system are unfair because voters have to choose from a fixed list of candidates, rather than between individual politicians.

In addition, the constitutional court criticized the bonus awarded to the leading coalition to grant it a majority number of seats.

READ MORE: Italy's electoral law ruled part unconstitutional

The announcement coincided with Renzi’s election as the Democratic Party’s (PD) new leader, and the Florence mayor has wasted no time in getting his proposal on the table.

Over the weekend Renzi met with Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Italy’s second-largest party, Forza Italia, to iron out his plan for a new election law. Having gained approval from PD politicians, the new election law must go through parliament before it can be implemented.

SEE ALSO: Berlusconi heckled at talks with leftist leader

Renzi’s plan includes a bonus of up to 18 percent, offered to the winning party or coalition that receives at least 35 percent of the vote. Smaller parties will only be given seats in parliament if they win at least eight percent of the vote, or five percent within a coalition.

The proposed system aims to avoid the paralysis which struck Italian politics after last year’s national election, in which three groups each won around a quarter of the vote, and rid the political system of the huge number of smaller parties.

After the two-month political stalemate that followed the 2013 elections, Renzi’s proposals have been greeted as a positive change.

Elections are a 'cultural issue'

“The current electoral system tends to create instability which, beyond the fact that it is hard to win a majority, over-emphasizes the influence and representation of smaller parties,” Alberto Nardelli, co-founder of election website, electionista, tells The Local.

While concerns have been raised that the threshold for seats in parliament could be a threat to small parties, Nardelli argues the change could prompt politicians to be more open to compromises within their own parties.

“We’re not talking about historical parties that have existed for 50 years; they are mainly parties which have sprung up between elections. Politicians argue and say they’ll create new parties,” he says.

This happens mainly because the existing electoral system allows politicians to wield greater influence as smaller spin-off parties than as minority voices within a larger party, Nardelli adds.

Paolo Bellucci, a professor at the University of Siena's Centre for the Study of Political Change (CIRCap), agrees that “the main purpose of this new law is to reduce fragmentation”.

He argues that the thresholds were set at five and eight percent for the benefit of the Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano, who recently broke away from Berlusconi’s party to create his own political group.

“The threshold answers the needs of Alfano’s New Centre-Right (NCD),” Bellucci tells The Local. This week a poll put the NCD polling at 6.4 percent, behind the PD, Forza Italia and Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement (M5S).

Renzi’s proposals have not, however, done away with the closed lists of candidates, criticized by Italy’s Constitutional Court. But Bellucci argues that the criticism itself is controversial, as “most European systems have closed lists”.

The PD leader has instead improved the lists by revamping the way they are structured, Bellucci adds: “The new system allows voters to select from a list of four of five people, so voters can know the candidates they are going to select.”

For Nardelli, the problem of blocked lists stems from Italy’s political culture rather than the structure of the current law. “The problem with the lists is that parties would impose candidates that perhaps weren’t worthy - those that were owed favours - which was made possible by blocked lists.

“This is less of a technical and more of a cultural issue,” he says.

A higher calibre of candidates is needed in the first place, Nardelli says, which could be achieved by introducing primary elections for candidates.

The revised electoral law could be improved further by adopting the French system, Bellucci adds.

“In the first round each party can present a candidate, even a small party. If no-one gets the majority then there’s another round with only the parties that win more than 12.5 percent," he explains.

"This would allow each party to run on its own then create alliances in the second round."

But in the absence of a perfect election law, Bellucci says that overall Renzi’ proposals, if adopted, “will definitely be a positive change”.

Nardelli agrees that the plan is a step in the right direction, although cautions that it will take more than a new law to overhaul Italian politics.

“On paper, it makes the system much more efficient. But the cultural change will take a long time; we’ve had a poor choice for 20 years and it’s got worse.

“Having a stable starting point is a positive step in the right direction,” he says.

Don't miss a story about Italy - Join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Rosie Scammell (rosie.scammell@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
The Local List
Ten things to do in Milan when you visit Expo
There's nothing more Milanese than an aperitivo in the Navigli quarter. Photo: Irene Grassi/Flickr

Ten things to do in Milan when you visit Expo

With the World Expo in town, tourists are descending on Milan as never before. If you're one of them, check out this quick guide for a weekend in the city. READ  

Pressure on Italy after Irish gay marriage vote
Same-same couples currently have no legal status in Italy. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Pressure on Italy after Irish gay marriage vote

The Italian government is facing increasing pressure to give same-sex couples more rights after Ireland voted to legalize gay marriage, with the president of Italy's parliament arguing it's time to legislate for civil unions. READ  

Two arrested in massive migrant cash scam
Over 200,000 migrants have arrived on Italian shores since the start of 2014. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP

Two arrested in massive migrant cash scam

Italian police have arrested two people as they attempted to flee the country, allegedly responsible for a vast scam using funds set aside in Campania to manage the refugee crisis. READ  

Fiorentina score spot in Europa League
Fiorentina's six-point lead over Sampdoria means their spot in next season's Europa League is secure. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

Fiorentina score spot in Europa League

Europa League semi-finalists Fiorentina secured their place in next season's competition with a stunning 3-2 win at Palermo, as Verona striker Luca Toni moved top of the Serie A scoring charts on Sunday. READ  

Kenya Catholics celebrate Italian nun
Photo: Simon Maina/AFP

Kenya Catholics celebrate Italian nun

Tens of thousands of Catholics prayed in the Kenyan town of Nyeri on Saturday at a beatification ceremony of an Italian nun, the first person to undergo the key step toward sainthood in the east African country. READ  

Italy to revisit anti-Isis plan amid growing fears
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the anti-Isis coalition would soon meet in Paris. Photo: John Thys/AFP

Italy to revisit anti-Isis plan amid growing fears

Italy is growing increasingly concerned about the threat of Isis as the militant group makes rapid advances in Syria and Iraq. READ  

Tunisia asks Italy to extradite Bardo suspect
Flowers and messages of condolences outside Tunisia's Bardo National Museum. Photo: Fethu Belaid/AFP

Tunisia asks Italy to extradite Bardo suspect

Tunisia has asked Italy to extradite a Moroccan suspected of involvement in the deadly attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis in March, the interior ministry said on Friday. READ  

'Grexit' poses medium-term risks to euro: Italy
Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan (R) and his Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis speak at a meeting at the European Council, in Brussels. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

'Grexit' poses medium-term risks to euro: Italy

Greece crashing out of the euro, or 'Grexit', doesn't pose a short-term risk to the shared European currency but a medium-term one as it demonstrates that the union is not permanent, Italy's finance minister said on Friday. READ  

Italy’s ex-foreign minister wins cancer battle
Emma Bonino has overcome her battle against cancer. Photo: Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Italy’s ex-foreign minister wins cancer battle

Italy’s former foreign minister Emma Bonino has overcome her battle against lung cancer. READ  

Producer warns of global Prosecco shortage
Leading Prosecco producer Bisol has warned of a possible shortage of the tipple this summer. Photo: Dinner Series

Producer warns of global Prosecco shortage

Sales of Prosecco surged last year but lovers of the Italian bubbly might want to moderate their drinking amid fears of a global shortage. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
Sponsored Article
Student life in Rome
National
Italy starts to show the strains of migrant influx
Migrant gets permit for saving drowning woman
Features
Rude Italian terms that just don’t translate
National
Amazing Italian homes for less than €100,000
Politics
'UK exit from the EU would be a disaster'
Features
Forgotten resistance: Italian freedom fighters
National
5 reasons why Italy is on the up
VIDEO: How to stay clean while floating in space
National
Italians welcome 'royal baby' born on boat
National
Life's better in Italy, say expat mums
National
Are Italians becoming boozier than the Brits?
Travel
Ten must-see places within reach of Rome
National
Italian astronaut has first espresso in space
Politics
Italy approves radical new electoral law
International
Brits in Italy could face health 'black hole'
National
Top ten problems of growing up multilingual
National
How to live in Italy without speaking Italian
Politics
Revealed: the Italians who worship Mussolini
National
My Italian habits that foreigners just don’t get
Culture
Illnesses that only seem to strike Italians
Ferrara lawyers want crucifixes back in court
National
'Italy’s probably the worst place for business'
Ten ways Italians celebrate Easter
National
'I don’t see signs of a turn in the economy'
Business & Money
Ten 'Italian' firms that aren't actually Italian
Opinion
Why are Italians such crazy drivers?
Culture
Pompeii Villa boosts Italy heritage hopes
National
'I want Knox extradited if verdict upheld': lawyer
Culture
Seven ways to get tongue-tied in Italian
Technology
Scientists reconstruct DNA from fascist sperm
National
Italian police: 'Isis flag' was jacket in tree
National
Furore over Naples nude nun billboard
Politics
Berlusconi: Two decades of courtroom saga
Health
Italy's C-section rate among Europe's highest
National
Rome bans Ben Hur filming at ancient site
International
Why Libya is ringing alarm bells in Italy
National
How Islamic college plan has split Italian town
National
James Bond's best Italian moments
Sport
Purrfect catch: Italian twins land giant catfish
National
VIDEO: Massive sinkhole opens up in Naples
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,595
jobs available