Why do Italy's regional elections matter - and who can vote in them?

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Why do Italy's regional elections matter - and who can vote in them?
A polling advisor casts a ballot in Milan. File photo: AFP

With regional elections coming up in Italy, here's a look at what they're actually for and who is allowed to vote in them.


Can I vote in an Italian regional or local election?

You can vote in regional elections if you have Italian citizenship, are over 18 years of age, and are registered on the electoral roll in your municipality.

You must vote in the town in which you're registered to vote, unless you're in a special category such as soldiers or police officers stationed elsewhere.
comune are legally entitled to vote.

An EU citizen may also stand as a candidate at municipal elections, under the same conditions as an Italian national.

You must be at least 18 years old, and must not have been banned from voting in another EU member state.
A man walks past campaign posters ahead of regional elections held in Emilia-Romagna in January 2020. Photo: AFP

The regional polls elect the president of each region -  roughly the equivalent of a state governor in the US.

The regional president appoints and heads a committee of councillors that help govern the region. There is also a regional parliament elected separately by voters.

Most candidates are aligned with Italy's biggest political parties - which are currently the Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia), the League (Lega), the Democratic Party (partito democratico, or PD), the Five Star Movement (movimento Cinque Stelle (or M5S), Forza Italia. But many candidates are often from other, smaller parties and regional groups such as the Sardinian Action Party.

The situation is similar in local (municipal) elections, in which a mayor is elected for each comune, though there are usually fewer candidates in the running, with the main players often backed by a coalition of left- or right-wing parties.

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

You'll find details of each candidates manifesto and upcoming appearances on their party's website, or on the candidates' own social media pages. Italian politicians are often particularly active on Facebook, so it may be worth checking there first for updates.

Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi shows his ballot at a polling station in Milan. Photo: AFP

What powers do local governments have?

While regional and local powers have been expanded temporarily under covid-19 emergency measures, most regional administrations usually answer to the national government in Rome.

The majority of the regions don’t have much power, particularly when compared to federal states such as Germany.

They keep only 20 percent of tax revenue, and the constitution grants them " legislative powers in all subject matters that are not expressly covered by State legislation", which in practice doesn't amount to much.


But five regions (Aosta Valley, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol) have special status, meaning their governments have special constitutional powers and greater control over local laws and money.

If you look at a map, you'll see these regions all lie on Italy's borders, and the special status helps them preserve cultural differences.

Italy was only unified in 1861, and its 20 administrative regions more or less correspond to the historical regions. Italy is further divided into 110 provinces and almost 8,000 comuni.


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