euronews special coverage
After a year of technocratic government that followed two decades of Silvio Berlusconi’ s on-off premiership, Italians are returning to the polls. And the result will be followed intensely by concerned minds in Brussels, as it is bound to have significant repercussions in the context of an on-going economic crisis that is crushing growth, freezing the labour market and eating into household savings, the only real "social safety net" for the younger generation.
In euronews' special coverage find out what's at stake in this election, what's broken and needs to be fixed in Italy, who the main contenders are, what they're promising and- most importantly- meet the Italian citizens who will decide who wins.
Italy prepares for a coalition of enemies
The results of the Italian general election are threefold, political gridlock, market jitters and a slap in the face for European austerity.
The numbers mean that the country faces stalemate in the coming weeks as former foes try to put hostilities to bed in order to govern a country in difficulty.
The poll has seen another political resurrection of Silvio Berlusconi, who has indicated that his centre-right group may be willing to enter into a grand coalition with Pier Luigi Bersani. Bersani’s centre-left bloc won 340 seats in the lower house compared to Berlusconi’s 124.
The biggest gains go to the Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo, which claimed 108 seats in the house. Former prime minister Mario Monti picked up a miserable 45 seats.
It is in the upper house, the Senate, where the problems reside. Berlusconi’s group just pipped Bersani by three seats with Grillo once again making headlines by winning a whopping 54 seats.
The Senate is where coalitions need to be forged as any administration trusted to run the country will need a working majority in both houses to pass legislation.
Once again it is a thumbs down for Monti, the EU’s preferred choice, with 18 Senate seats.
James Walston, Professor of Political Science, at the American University in Rome, concluded: “This is a limited disaster because something will happen. They have to. They – President Napolitano and the people who have won or almost won – they are going to have to come to some sort of deal. But it is going to be a very painful few months, certainly until there is some sort of stability, assuming that stability arrives.”
Results in the two parliamentary chambers
What is the outlook for Italy after the election?
MEPs fear Italian vote will lead to paralysis
Italian populism vs realism
Lock, stock and one smoking Beppe Grillo
Is Italy ready for change?
Bersani: ‘Berlusconi’s Italy crippled the very idea of Europe’
Italy wants cross border action to tackle the mafia
Exclusive: Berlusconi rails against EU leaders
Italy’s Grillo says no to vote for centre-left government
Italy: Bersani warns of post-election ‘drama’
Comic wipes smile off politicians’ faces
Bersani wants change for parliament and Italy
Italy prepares for a coalition of enemies
Italy calls to scrap the ‘pigs mess’
Italy votes in general election as Europe watches and waits
Last-minute appeals to voters as Italy election campaign winds up
Roberto Maroni: the key to Northern Italy
Outcome far from certain as Italy prepares to vote
Il Cavaliere rides back into town
Having a laugh – at Italian politicians’ expense
Monti claims courage
Final polls predict a win for centre-left in Italy
Berlusconi shakes up Italian election at Rome rally
Italy election campaign: Berlusconi and Grillo gain momentum
Mario Monti presses case for EU budget decision
Berlusconi attacked over Mussolini defence
Party leader blasts personality politics ahead of Italy election
Monti could stand again for Italian PM
Elections 2013, all the info:
» 1) When?
On Sunday 24 and Monday 25 February Italy is holding elections for a new parliament and the three regional councils of Lombardy, Lazio and Molise. The opening of the polls is on Sunday 24 from 08:00 to 22:00 CET, and on Monday 25 from 07:00 to 15:00. The result for the Chamber and Senate, the two houses of parliament, is expected soon after the polls closed on Monday 25, while the count for Regional vote is expected on Tuesday, February 26.
» 2) Who can vote?
For the election of the Lower Chamber of parliament (and the three regional consultations) Italian citizens who turned 18 on or before February 24, 2013 may vote; for the election of the Senate, voters must have reached 25 years of age by February 24. Voters must present themselves at the polling reference equipped with an electoral certificate and a valid ID. The electoral offices of each municipality are open for the duration of the elections in case of loss or renewal of their ballot.
» 3) How do you vote?
For the Lower Chamber (pink card) and the Senate (yellow card). A voter will have one ballot for the Chamber (pink) and one for the Senate (yellow). For both cards, the voter shall express the vote by drawing a single sign inside the rectangle that contains the mark of the list of candidates chosen by him. Voters can not express their preference for candidates, whose names have already been presented in a fixed order. The party list system effectively favours the coalition of which the list belongs.
» 4) The electoral system, how does it work?
The system provides threshold barriers to access both the Lower Chamber and the Senate. But the real crux of the law is the size of the majority achieved by the winning coalition, a prize that is awarded in different ways in both houses of parliament.
» 5) What is the distribution of the 315 seats in the Senate?
The key to the outcome of the election is tied to the Senate. For the Senate, the current law provides for a proportional distribution of seats among Italy’s 20 regions (more populous regions are allocated more seats), plus a premium for the list (or coalition) that obtains the majority in each region. The list (or coalition) that has a majority within each region is assigned at least 55 per cent of the total seats allocated to that territory.
» 6) Chamber and Senate: who gets the majority premium?
In the Lower Chamber, a party that is not part of a coalition must attain a threshold of 4% of the national vote to enter parliament, while for parties in a coalition the threshold is 10%. If a coalitions wins a majority it is automatically given at least 340 of the 617 seats. In the Senate the threshold barrier for a non-coalesced party is 8%, and 20% for coalitions. Within the coalition, the votes shall be distributed among the parties having reached at least 3% of the vote.
» 7) What are the key regions?
Certain regions are decisive for a majority in the Senate, and they are considered to be in the balance: Lombardy (assigned 49 seats in the Senate), Veneto (24), Campania (29) and Sicily (25). According to projections by the centre-left, in order to obtain an absolute majority in both houses of Parliament, it can afford to lose in the Veneto region, but should prevail in all the other three regions mentioned above.
» 8) What is the traditional abstention rate?
From 2004 to 2013 the number of people who, according to Eurispes, claim to 'always' vote has gradually decreased, reaching its all-time low in 2013: down by more than 7 percentage points, "less than 77% of respondents, in fact, declare to vote always "
» 9) What about voting abroad?
The Overseas Constituency is divided into six areas (Europe, including the Asian territories of the Russian Federation and Turkey; South America; North and Central America; Africa; Asia; Oceania and Antarctica) and at least one Senator and one Member of the Chamber is elected for each, while the other two seats in the Senate and eight for the Chamber are distributed in proportion to the number of citizens who reside there.