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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

TIMELINE: What happens on election day and when do we get the results?

With only one day to go until Sunday’s general elections, we look at what happens on the big day.

A citizen watches a polling station officer casting his ballot on March 4, 2018 at a poll in Milan, Italy.
Polls across the country will be open from 7am to 11pm on Sunday, September 25th. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

7am: Polls open. Barring those residing abroad, voters can only cast their ballot in the municipality (comune) in which they are legally registered to vote and at the specific polling station assigned to them. 

Voters will need to turn up at their polling station with a valid identity document and their tessera elettorale (voting card). 

READ ALSO: Italian ballot papers: What they look like and how to vote

Also, mobile phones cannot be taken into the voting booths and need to be left with the polling station staff.

11pm: Polls close and counting starts immediately after. 

Ballot papers for the election of the Senate are counted first. Counting agents turn to the Chamber of Deputies’ ballots only after the first procedure has been completed.

11.30pm: The first exit polls from the country’s leading news media should be out by now. Though generally fairly accurate, polls should not be relied upon blindly – see the 2013 exit poll debacle, for example.

A man votes at a polling station in central Rome.

Voters are required to turn up at their local polling station with a valid ID and their own voting card (‘tessera elettorale’). Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

READ ALSO: Italy’s right confident of election win at last rallies before vote

2am-3am (Monday, September 26th): This is generally when the first official projections based on data from polling stations start coming in. These protections are of course usually much more reliable than the exit polls.

8am onwards: Barring a neck and neck contest, a fairly accurate overview of the election’s results should be available by Monday morning. 

Naturally, much depends also on the total number of ballots to be counted. 

In 2018, Italy recorded its worst-ever election turnout, with only 73 percent of Italians choosing to cast their vote. 

READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: What’s behind the decline in Italian voter turnout?

According to recent polls, abstentionism might be even worse this time around, with as many as 16 million Italians expected to refrain from voting – Italy has a voting population of just over 46.5 million.

A policeman stands outside a polling station in central Rome.

According to the latest available polls, as many as 16 million Italians might abstain from voting on Sunday. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

While being a serious concern for the country’s democracy, a low turnout would make things easier for counting agents and would likely bring the announcement of results forward.

The winners of Sunday’s elections will be known and declared by Monday evening at the latest, though official counting operations, including any potential recounts, will only end towards the end of the week.

The coming weeks: Once counting is complete, the new parliament is formed, with lower and upper house seats allocated through a blend of proportional and first-past-the-post system.

READ ALSO: Your ultimate guide to Italy’s crucial elections on Sunday

The new parliament will convene on October 13th. After that date, President Sergio Mattarella will start consultations with party leaders to discuss the formation of the new government.

It’ll take at least 25 days for the new government to take up office, though it can also take significantly longer – in 2018, the first Conte cabinet only assumed its powers 88 days (almost three months) after the elections.

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ENERGY

What does the shut-off of Russian gas supplies mean for Italy?

After Russian energy giant Gazprom suspended gas deliveries to Italy on Saturday, many are wondering what consequences the stoppage will have on the country’s energy supplies.

What does the shut-off of Russian gas supplies mean for Italy?

What’s going on?

Over the past three days, Italy has received none of the gas supplies it expected from Russian energy giant Gazprom. 

The impasse officially started last Saturday, when Gazprom announced it would not be able to deliver gas to Italy due to “the impossibility of gas transport through Austria” – Russian gas supplies are delivered to Italy through the Trans Austria Gas pipeline (TAG), which reaches into Italian territory near Tarvisio, Friuli Venezia-Giulia. 

READ ALSO: Russia suspends gas to Italy after ‘problem’ in Austria

Though Gazprom originally attributed the problem to Austrian gas grid operators refusing to confirm “transport nominations”, Austria’s energy regulator E-Control said that the Russian energy mammoth had failed to comply with new contractual agreements whose introduction had been “known to all market actors for months”. 

Additional information about the incident only emerged on Monday, when Claudio Descalzi, the CEO of Italy’s national energy provider ENI, said that supplies had been suspended after Gazprom failed to pay a 20-million-euro guarantee to Austrian gas carrier Gas Connect. 

Descalzi also added that ENI was ready to step in and deposit the guarantee itself in order to unblock deliveries to Italy.

Logo of Italian energy regulator ENI.

Italian energy regulator ENI said it was ready to pay Austrian gas carriers a 20-million-euro guarantee to unblock deliveries. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

READ ALSO: Italy’s ENI ready to pay guarantee to unblock Russian gas

At the time of writing, however, no agreement between ENI, Gas Connect and Gazprom has yet been reached, with the stoppage expected to continue until Wednesday at the very least.

What would an indefinite stoppage mean for Italy’s upcoming winter season?

Though energy giant ENI appears to be confident that a compromise between all the involved parties will be reached shortly, the “indefinite shutdown” of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in early September is somewhat of a menacing precedent. 

After fears of a long-term supply suspension cropped up over the weekend, outgoing Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani publicly reassured Italians that “barring any catastrophic events, Italy will have the whole of winter covered”.

It isn’t yet clear what exactly Cingolani meant by “catastrophic”, but the latest available data seem to suggest that Italy wouldn’t have to resort to emergency measures, chiefly gas rationing, should Gazprom halt deliveries indefinitely. 

Italian Minister for Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani.

Outgoing Minister for Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani said that, “barring any catastrophic events”, Italy will have enough gas supplies for the winter. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

In 2021, prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Italy received around 20 billion cubic metres of Russian gas per year, which accounted for about 40 percent of the country’s annual gas imports. 

But, thanks to the supply diversification strategy carried out by outgoing PM Mario Draghi and his cabinet over the past few months, Russian gas currently accounts for, in the words of ENI’s CEO Claudio Descalzi, only “about nine to 10 percent” of Italian gas imports.

READ ALSO: Italy’s Draghi criticises Germany over latest energy plan

Granted, Italy still receives (or, given the current diplomatic deadlock, expects to receive) a non-negligible total of 20 million cubic metres of Russian gas per day. But, should supply lines between Rome and Moscow be shut off until further notice, Italy could fall back on existing gas stocks to meet winter consumption demands. 

Last Wednesday, Cingolani announced that the country had already filled up 90 percent of its national gas stocks – Italy has nine storage plants for an overall storage capacity of 17 billion cubic metres of gas – and the government was now working to bring that number up by an additional two or three percentage points.

These supplies, Cingolani said, are set to give Italy “greater flexibility” with respect to potential “spikes in winter consumption”.

Gas storage station in Loenhout, Belgium.

Italy has nine storage plants for an overall storage capacity of 17 billion cubic metres of gas. Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

Finally, Italy is expected to receive an additional four billion cubic metres of gas from North Europe over the winter months – deliveries which will be complemented by the first shipments of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) from Egypt.

Both of these developments are expected to further reinforce Italy’s position in the energy market for the cold season.

What about the long-term consequences of an indefinite stoppage?

An indefinite shut-off of Russian gas supplies would effectively anticipate Italy’s independence from Moscow by nearly two years – Draghi’s plan has always been to wean the country off Russian gas by autumn 2024.

However, the Italian government’s strategy is (or, perhaps, was, as a new government is about to be formed) centred around a gradual phasing out of Russian supplies. As such, although not immediately problematic, a ‘cold-turkey’ scenario might create supply issues for Italy at some point during 2023.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How much are energy prices rising in Italy this autumn?

Granted, Algeria, whose supplies currently make up 36 percent of Italy’s national demand, is expected to ramp up gas exports and provide Rome with nine billion cubic metres of gas in 2023.

But, even when combined with LNG supplies from several African partners – these should add up to a total of four billion cubic metres of gas in 2023 – there’s a risk that Algerian gas might not be able to replace Russian gas on its own.

An employee works at the Tunisian Sergaz company, that controls the Tunisian segment of the Trans-Mediterranean (Transmed) pipeline, through which natural gas flows from Algeria to Italy.

Algerian gas supplies, which reach Italy through the Trans-Med pipeline (pictured above), might not be enough to replace Russian gas in 2023. Photo by Fethi BELAID / AFP

Therefore, should an indefinite shut-off be the ultimate outcome of the current diplomatic incident between ENI, Austria’s Gas Connect and Russia’s Gazprom, Italy, this time in the person of new PM Giorgia Meloni, might have to close deals with other suppliers or ask existing suppliers to ramp up production. 

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