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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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POLITICS

Second Italian minister takes anti-mafia reporter Saviano to court

Just weeks after going on trial in a case brought by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Italian investigative journalist Roberto Saviano was back in court on Wednesday facing allegations of defamation lodged by Meloni's deputy, Matteo Salvini.

Second Italian minister takes anti-mafia reporter Saviano to court

Deputy Prime Minister Salvini, whose far-right League party is a key member of Meloni’s coalition, is suing the journalist for calling him the “minister of the criminal underworld” in a social media post in 2018.

In November, Saviano went on trial in a case brought by Meloni for calling her a “bastard” in 2020 over her attitude towards vulnerable migrants.

READ ALSO: Press freedom fears as Italian PM Meloni takes Saviano to trial

Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party was in opposition at the time, but won September elections on a promise to curb mass migration.

Saviano, known for his international mafia bestseller “Gomorrah”, regularly clashes with Italy’s far-right and says the trials are an attempt to intimidate him.

He faces up to three years in prison if convicted in either trial.

“I think it is the only case in Western democracies where the executive asks the judiciary to lay down the boundaries within which it is possible to criticise it,” Saviano said in a declaration in court on Wednesday.

He said he was “blatantly the victim of intimidation by lawsuit”, on trial “for making my opinion, my thoughts, public”.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about press freedom in Italy

Press freedom watchdogs and supporters of Saviano have called for the suits to be scrapped. Meloni refused in November, despite criticism that her position of power makes it an unfair trial.

Armed guard

Saviano has lived under police protection since revealing the secrets of the Naples mafia in 2006.

But when Salvini was appointed interior minister in a previous government in June 2018, he suggested he might scrap Saviano’s armed guard.

The writer reacted on Facebook, saying Salvini “can be defined ‘the minister of the criminal underworld’,” an expression he said was coined by anti-fascist politician Gaetano Salvemini to describe a political system which exploited voters in Italy’s poorer South.

READ ALSO: Anti-mafia author Saviano won’t be ‘intimidated’ by Salvini

He accused Salvini of having profited from votes in Calabria to get elected senator, while failing to denounce the region’s powerful ‘Ndrangheta mafia and focusing instead on seasonal migrants.

Salvini’s team are expected to reject any claim he is soft on the mafia.

Saviano’s lawyer said he will call as a witness the current interior minister Matteo Piantedosi, who at the time was in charge of evaluating the journalist’s police protection.

The next hearing was set for June 1st.

Watchdogs have warned of the widespread use in Italy of SLAPPS, lawsuits aimed at silencing journalists or whistleblowers.

Defamation through the media can be punished in Italy with prison sentences from six months to three years, but the country’s highest court has urged lawmakers to rewrite the law, saying jail time for such cases was unconstitutional.

Saviano is also being sued by Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano in a civil defamation case brought in 2020, before Sangiuliano joined the cabinet.

A ruling in that case could come in the autumn. If he loses that case Saviano may have to pay up to 50,000 euros in compensation, his lawyer told AFP.

Italy ranked 58th in the 2022 world press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders, one of the lowest positions in western Europe.

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