• 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
Italy's Senate backs anti-corruption bill
The new anti-corruption measures specifically focus on crimes made against the public administration. Corruption photo: Shutterstock

Italy's Senate backs anti-corruption bill

Senators on Wednesday gave its backing to an anti-corruption bill, set to tighten controls on fraud in public administration following a wave of scandals. READ  

Extradition of ex-mafia boss from UK dropped
Ex-mafia boss Domenico Rancadore has had his sentence dropped. Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP

Extradition of ex-mafia boss from UK dropped

A Sicilian former mafia boss who faced extradition to Italy after living in Britain for more than two decades has had his sentence dropped, his lawyer said on Wednesday. READ  

Is Easter lamb falling off the Italian menu?
Silvia Fassetta, one of the founders of The Green Place, an animal refuge near the spa town of Nepi. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Is Easter lamb falling off the Italian menu?

What could be more redolent of Easter than a sizzling piece of suckling lamb studded with slivers of garlic, crowned with sprigs of rosemary and roasted to a deep, golden hue? READ  

England have the edge over Italy: Rooney
"We are a better footballing team, I feel, than Italy are," said Wayne Rooney. Wayne Rooney photo: Shutterstock

England have the edge over Italy: Rooney

Manchester United star Wayne Rooney believes a new-look England proved they have the edge over Italy based on the evidence of their 1-1 draw in Turin on Tuesday. READ  

Vatican and Italy unite against tax evaders
The deal followed months of negotiations between the Vatican and Rome. Vatican photo: Shutterstock

Vatican and Italy unite against tax evaders

The Vatican said on Wednesday it had signed an agreement to share financial information with Italy in a bid to stamp out tax evasion within the once-secretive city state. READ  

Turin's Egyptian Museum unveils €50m revamp
The new-look Egyptian Museum hosts artefacts dating back to 4000 BC. Photo: Egyptian Museum

Turin's Egyptian Museum unveils €50m revamp

Turin's Egyptian Museum on Wednesday unveiled its €50 million revamp, marking the successful end of a five-year project which aims to boost the city’s cultural integration efforts. READ  

Word on the street
'I don’t see signs of a turn in the economy'

'I don’t see signs of a turn in the economy'

Figures published by the national statistics agency, Istat, on Monday said Italians were feeling more upbeat about the economy. But those we spoke to begged to differ. READ  

April Fools' Day
April Fool! The Local's day in gags
In our April Fools' we had American pizza makers claim they make the best pizza. Pizza photo: Shutterstock

April Fool! The Local's day in gags

No, you weren’t going crazy when you scrolled through The Local this morning. Today, our network temporarily lost its marbles for April Fools' Day. So, as the clock strikes 12pm, it’s time for The Local to fess up and reveal which of our stories were red herrings. READ  

April Fools!
UN 'should honour US as home of pizza'
American pizza makers claim they make the best Neapolitan. Pizza photo: Shutterstock

UN 'should honour US as home of pizza'

Neapolitan pizza should be recognized by the UN as American, pizza makers in Florida say. We've taken an Italian concept and made it better - and cheesier - they claim. READ  

Rome university runs exorcism course
The practice of exorcism is recognized under canon law. Bible photo: Shutterstock

Rome university runs exorcism course

A Rome university will this month run an exorcism course, teaching religious and secular students how to rid people of their demons. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
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
Culture
Italians 'don't love' their language
National
In pictures: Italians mock Isis on Twitter
Opinion
Could Isis terrorists really invade Italy?
International
EU to increase migrant aid to Italy
National
Lampedusa: Tiny Italian island swamped by migrant tide
Culture
Italy sells off Mussolini buildings to raise cash
National
Italians are Europe's most reckless drivers
National
Why flirty Italians still don't do online dating
Gallery
Top 10: the most romantic places to propose in Italy
National
Top 10: your favourite Italian words
International
Bond meets Snowden: The HSBC whistleblower
Education
Ten common mistakes Italians make in English
National
What makes life in Bolzano so good?
National
Swiss town's ploy against workers living in Italy 'not racist'
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Travel
How the weak euro is boosting tourism to Italy
Politics
Italy sends mixed signals on Greek debt
National
Top 10 delightfully irrational Italian superstitions
Politics
Sergio Mattarella: Sicilian 'man of the law'
National
10 Italian words used differently in English
National
26-year jail term sought for Concordia captain
Vatican
What did you think of the Pope's rabbit rant?
Culture
Italy seizes more than 5,000 looted artefacts
International
How can an American get Italian citizenship?
Travel
Italian hotel named best in world for families
Culture
Top 15 English words reinvented by Italians
Culture
Top 10: The best Italian inventions
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

3,583
jobs available