Why do Italy’s regional elections matter – and who can vote in them?

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

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

Regional elections will take place in seven of Italy's 20 regions on on September 20-21: the Aosta Valley, Campania, Liguria, Marche, Puglia, Tuscany, and Veneto.

Municipal elections will meanwhile take place in 1,149 comuni across Italy.
Some 18 provincial capitals will also go to the polls this month: Agrigento, Andria, Aosta, Arezzo, Bolzano, Chieti, Crotone, Enna, Fermo, Lecco, Macerata, Mantua, Matera, Nuoro, Reggio Calabria, Trani, Trento and Venice. 
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.
If you've been quarantined under Italian Covid-19 restrictions, you can still vote by sending a written statement and medical certificate to your local comune. See the italian goverment's FAQ on voting in regional elections for more details.
In municipal elections, all EU citizens living in Italy and registered as resident in the local 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

What are we voting for exactly?

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 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 including Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia) and regional groups such as the Sardinian Action Party.

The below map shows which party currently rules which region in Italy, with those awaiting an election this month marked in grey and bordered by the colour of the party in power.

Map: Wikimedia Commons

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.

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.

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

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.

This is not the only vote being held in September

The September elections will take place concurrently with the 2020 Italian constitutional referendum, in which voters will be asked whether they approve a constitutional law that amends various aspects of the Italian Constitution – most notably on reducing the number of MPs in parliament, from 630 to 400 in the Chamber of Deputies and from 315 to 200 in the Senate.

For more information on voting rights, see the Italian Interior Ministry's website.


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Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.