• Italy edition
 
Opinion
Can Renzi's new law revamp Italian politics?
Matteo Renzi presented his proposal for a new election law this week. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Can Renzi's new law revamp Italian politics?

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

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
The Local List
Top ten: Weird Italian expressions
Il lupo nero porta fortuna. Photo: Bruce Mckay

Top ten: Weird Italian expressions

It is fair to say that when people visit or move to Italy, they will probably come across some typical sayings and Italian expressions that may sound completely out of context, and sometimes even slightly weird. READ  

Italian diner finds five pearls in oyster
Oyster photo: Shutterstock

Italian diner finds five pearls in oyster

An Italian businessman got a pleasant surprise when he ordered oysters at a restaurant in Salerno and discovered five pearls inside. READ  

Italian cabbies 'smuggled refugees to Germany'
The Italians are accused of using their cars and minibuses to accompany hundreds of migrants illegally crossing into Germany. Taxi photo: Shutterstock

Italian cabbies 'smuggled refugees to Germany'

A number of Italian taxi drivers have been arrested in Germany for allegedly running hundreds of refugees across the country's border, although one organization claims they have done nothing wrong. READ  

Twist in Italy-India spat as marine hospitalized
Marine Massimiliano Latorre collapsed on Sunday and was taken to hospital. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Twist in Italy-India spat as marine hospitalized

One of two Italian marines detained in India over the fatal shooting of two fishermen has been hospitalised in New Delhi, according to the defence ministry in Rome and one of his lawyers. READ  

EU sanctions against Russia
EU to decide new Russia sanctions on Friday
Italy’s Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said that new sanctions against Russia will be decided by the European Commission on Friday. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP

EU to decide new Russia sanctions on Friday

Italy’s Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said on Tuesday that new sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine will be decided by the European Commission on Friday. READ  

Votes for expats
Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule
Photo: TJ Morris

Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule

The Conservative party in the UK has made a bid to woo expat voters by pledging to end the controversial “15-year rule” that prevents millions of Brits abroad from being able to vote. READ  

Bad weather brings summer to an abrupt end
Heavy rain swept across Italy on Monday. Rain photo: Shutterstock

Bad weather brings summer to an abrupt end

The summer has come to an abrupt end in Italy, as bad weather sweeps across the country leaving at least one person dead and six injured. READ  

'Germany is a model for Italy': Renzi
“We must stop talking badly of Germany," Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

'Germany is a model for Italy': Renzi

Italians must stop talking badly of Germany, which should be seen as a model country, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday. READ  

Mario Balotelli dumps fiancée: report
Mario Balotelli has reportedly split from fiancée Fanny Neguesha. Photos: Gabriel Bouys/AFP (L) and Alberto Ligria/AFP

Mario Balotelli dumps fiancée: report

Italian striker Mario Balotelli has reportedly split from his fiancée less than three months after proposing to her on a Brazilian beach. READ  

Venice film festival
Venice buzzes with new film financing initiative
European Gap-Financing Co-production Market, launched at this year's Venice film festival, hopes to take movies from the drawing board into cinemas. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP

Venice buzzes with new film financing initiative

Gripped by film festival fever, international investors are hunting for the next groundbreaking stories and rising-star directors - and they're in luck, for far from the crush at festivals like Toronto, Venice has launched a unique initiative. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Politics
Far right slammed over gay adoption photo
Travel
Spielberg leaves €300 tip in Italian restaurant
Sport
Football greats to kick-off Rome's match for peace
Politics
Italy scores EU win as Mogherini gets top job
National
Refugees protest against 'monotonous' Italian food
National
Rome man begs for jail to escape wife
Health
Italian scientists map brain to diagnose ALS
Gallery
Top 10: Italy's best films
National
Waiter writes 'faggots' on gay diners' receipt
Health
'The G-spot doesn't exist': Italian scientist
Sport
Mario Balotelli's most memorable moments
Business & Money
'The crisis is extremely healthy for Italy'
Features
Top tips: Surviving a job interview in Italy
Health
'Let infertile couple use donors': Italian court
Health
Wives suffer 'Retired Husband Syndrome'
National
10 fascinating facts about Augustus
Sport
VIDEO: Balotelli takes on 'Ice Bucket Challenge'
Travel
Give kids extra month off 'to boost tourism': plea
Travel
Tourist takes €4,000 taxi from Denmark to Rome
Society
Outrage over gossip mag's free gay joke book
International
Rome mayor slams British travel warning
Politics
Scots inspire separatists in Italy's Germanic north
Travel
Ten stupid things tourists have done in Italy
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

548
jobs available