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EXPLAINED: Five ways Italy’s 2022 elections will be different

Italy's 2022 elections are just over a week away, but there are a few reasons why they won't be like any vote Italy has held before.

EXPLAINED: Five ways Italy’s 2022 elections will be different
Campaign posters for Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia) at Rome’s Termini train station. Italy is getting ready to go to the polls on September 25th. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Italy’s upcoming vote is unusual in all sorts of ways, not least in that the country has never before held an election campaign during the summer.

Added to recent electoral reforms and the current political climate, this will be an election with a difference (or five), and no doubt with major historical importance.

Here’s a quick look at some of the most noteworthy things we’ll likely see at, or after, the coming election.

The right-wing alliance is expected to win by a landslide

While it’s hard, if not impossible, to forecast election results with complete certainty, it’s fair to say the outcome in this case looks like a foregone conclusion.

Italy’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party and its right-wing coalition partners have been consistently polling way ahead of other parties since the early election was called.

ELECTIONS: Italy’s hard-right parties hold the lead in final opinion polls

The right-wing alliance still held a significant lead of almost 20 points as the last opinion poll results came in on Friday, before polling was paused for the two weeks ahead of the election.

The coalition, which includes Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League, and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, is forecast to pocket some 46 percent of the vote.

Brothers of Italy was previously unheard of, and polled at four percent in the last election in 2018 – but has taken a lot of support from the League.

Meanwhile the left-wing alliance, led by the Democratic Party (PD), looks set to take around 28 percent of the vote, while the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) could take 13 percent, according to the last YouTrend poll before the pre-voting embargo began.

In a startling move, the leader of the PD has already admitted defeat, even though analysts say a large number of undecided voters means there is still “some margin” for surprise.

Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia party is leading opinion polls ahead of Italy’s general election on September 25, 2022. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Italy could have its first female – and post-fascist – prime minister

With the right-wing alliance set for an easy victory, as the leader of the party set to take the largest share of the vote overall Giorgia Meloni would be in line to take the top job, becoming Italy’s first-ever female prime minister.

She would also be the first prime minister from a post-fascist political party – and the resulting government is likely to be the first far-right administration in postwar Italy.

READ ALSO: Who is Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s likely next prime minister?

Born in Rome, 45-year-old Meloni has had a long political career, starting out as a teenage activist with the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after World War II.

Her Brothers of Italy party grew out of this post-fascist movement, but Meloni has sought to distance it, and herself, from this history – while refusing to renounce it entirely.

The new government may be able to rewrite the constitution

At this point, the question people in Italy are asking is not whether the right will win the election, but by how much.

Polls show it has a good chance of not just winning, but winning with an unprecedented ‘super majority’ – which could give a resulting government a mandate to change the Italian Constitution without consulting the public via a referendum.

EXPLAINED: Who’s who in Italy’s general election?

With other political forces divided, the right-wing alliance is close to achieving the necessary two-thirds majority in both the Lower House and the Senate.

The right is 19 percent ahead of the centre-left bloc in the run up to the election, and needs a lead of at least 21-22 percent to secure a qualified majority in both houses, according to projections.

Younger people have more voting rights this time

Italy’s political leaders’ sudden interest in the teen favourite social media platform TikTok during this election campaign may have something to do with the fact that they increasingly need the support of younger people – even in a country like Italy, with an overwhelmingly older population on average.

Up until last year, not all Italian adults could fully participate in the country’s elections as voters needed to be over the age of 25 to vote for senators.

This changed with a reform passed by parliament in July 2021, which means that an additional 3.8 million voters aged between 18 and 25 will be able to vote for their representatives in both the lower house and the senate in the upcoming election.

Plus, there are lots of undecided or uninterested voters in this age group: only 48 percent of voters under the age of 35 are planning to turn up at the polling station on September 25th, according to polls.

Italy's Prime Minister, Mario Draghi addressing the Senate on June 21st, 2022.

Italy’s Senate on June 21st, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

There are fewer seats available in parliament

One thing that makes it harder to predict the outcome of the election this time is that the makeup of both houses of parliament has changed, and so has the way lawmakers are elected.

Constitutional reforms approved in a 2020 referendum cut the number of senators to 200 from 315, and deputies (MPs) to 400 from 630. As a result, constituencies have been remapped and enlarged.

The reforms also mean seats are allocated via a combination of proportional representation (PR) and first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral systems.

This means that about 37 percent of seats will this time go to the candidates that win the most support in constituencies, while the rest will be allocated in proportion to the number of votes they receive at the national level. 

This system encourages parties to form coalitions – a very common feature of Italian election campaigns, as well as resulting governments – because that increases their chances of winning the first-past-the-post seats.

Find all the latest news on Italy’s election race here.

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EXPLAINED: When will Italy have a new government?

After general elections delivered a win for Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy party, the process of forming the next Italian government begins this week. Here's a look at what's likely to happen and when.

EXPLAINED: When will Italy have a new government?

A coalition of hard-right political parties led by Giorgia Meloni, set to be the next prime minister, is to take power in Italy after winning historic elections on September 25th. But it might be a while before Meloni and her government actually get to work.

In the two weeks since the election result was made official, there hasn’t been much news on what the incoming government will look like or when it will take office.

READ ALSO: The five biggest challenges facing Italy’s new government

With Meloni in intense talks with political allies on forming her new cabinet, Italian newspapers are full of reports detailing ongoing political spats and backroom deals amid wild speculation about who’ll get which poltrone (seat, or job in government) and which political party will control which ministry. But very little is actually known for sure.

For now, here’s a look at what we do know at this point and what to expect in the coming weeks.

When will the new government take office?

The process of forming the government kicks off on Thursday, October 13th, when parliament reopens and must elect the new Senate and Chamber presidents.

After this, President Sergio Mattarella can begin holding consultations at the Quirinale Palace on who should lead the new government. If all goes smoothly, these consultations could begin as soon as October 17th. 

If, as in this case, there’s a clear election result, the consultations with the president can take as little as two or three days. These conclude with the appointment of a prime minister.

Italian head of state, Sergio Mattarella.

The new Italian prime minister will be elected by the head of state, Sergio Mattarella (pictured above), after a series of consultations. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

At this point, the new prime minister will hold their own consultations with parties willing to support a government, and draw up a list of cabinet ministers. This process is likely to take one or two days.

EXPLAINED: What’s behind election success for Italy’s far right?

Once sworn in, the premier then has ten days to win a vote of confidence for their new government from both houses of parliament. When that’s obtained, the new executive is fully operational and can get to work.

Based on this schedule, news reports this week predict Meloni’s cabinet could be in place by the end of October.

In the past it has taken up to 12 weeks for a new administration to take office, amid drawn-out negotiations between the various political parties making up a government.

The time needed for the formation of Meloni’s government is expected to be on the shorter side because her right-wing coalition took a large enough slice of the vote that it won’t need to form unwieldy alliances with parties from the other end of the political spectrum in order to take power.

And there’s no time to waste, as Italy currently faces a long list of major challenges requiring government attention, from the soaring cost of living to the impact of war in Ukraine.

What will the new government look like?

The division of the top jobs – notably economy, foreign affairs, the defence and interior ministries – will always be political but now, more than ever, “will have to reflect areas of expertise”, the La Stampa newspaper noted.

While no names have yet been confirmed, Meloni told a party meeting this week that she aims to create “an authoritative government of a very high level that is based on skills.”

Meloni’s allies have been pitching for heavyweight positions: Matteo Salvini wanting his old job as interior minister back, and Silvio Berlusconi eyeing president of the Senate.

Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni (L) is tipped to become Italy’s next prime minister as part of a coalition with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italy and Matteo Salvini’s League. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Their parties’ disappointing performance at election, however, with neither reaching 10 percent while Brothers of Italy’s secured 26 percent, means Meloni is expected to sideline them.

Salvini may instead be given the agricultural ministry, according to reports.

READ ALSO: How could Italy’s new government change the constitution?

Berlusconi ally Antonio Tajani, a former European parliament president, is tipped as possible foreign minister, an appointment which could both appease Berlusconi and assuage international fears that Meloni’s Eurosceptic populist party will pick fights with Brussels.

But as ever in the world of Italian politics, very little can be predicted with any certainty.

See all of The Local’s latest Italian political news here.