2018 Italian Elections: An Overview (Part One)
The Sunday’s vote: possible post-election scenarios
On Sunday the 4th of March, Italian people are called to the polls for the parliamentary elections, which will determine the formation of the next government and the composition of both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. This vote is undoubtedly one of the most crucial ones in Italy’s recent history, but also a deeply uncertain one, opening up to coalitions and alliances that cannot be predicted with full confidence.
The current Italian political scenario is characterised by a tripolar system with three main blocs, namely the Centre-right, the 5 Star-movement and the Centre-left competing with each other to meet the 40% threshold for the majority. To be able to create a stable government, two of these political formations will have to ally with one another, unless the Centre-right coalition, composed by Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Salvini’s Lega (League), and Meloni’s Fratelli d’ Italia (Italian Brothers), will receive enough votes to create a government. The Listone (Big List), however, seems even more divided than the Left, especially regarding the position towards the EU, which has been greatly overlooked by most parties, with the exception of Renzi’s Partito Democratico (Democratic Party) and Bonino’s Più Europa (More Europe).
We imagine three possible scenarios that could occur in the aftermath of the elections:
There will be the so-called larghe intese (wide agreements) that have distinguished Italian’s last governments due to its proportional electoral system. The Centre-left, formed by Renzi’s Partito Democratico, Bonino’s Più Europa, and Civica Popolare (Popular Civic), the party of former Minister for Health Beatrice Lorenzin, will create a coalition with Forza Italia, the centre-right moderate and pro-European party led by Berlusconi and Tajani. The degree of probability: 8
The Centre-right coalition gets 40% of the total votes and creates a government with Antonio Tajani, the former European Parliament’s member, as the Prime Minister. Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right populist party Lega, will most likely be nominated as the Minister of Internal Affairs. The degree of probability: 7
The 5-Star movement and the League, the two populist parties headed by respectively the former comedian Beppe Grillo and Matteo Salvini, will ally together, as they share views, such as Euroscepticism and anti-immigration. The degree of probability: 5
Before moving to the parties’ programmes, we want to provide you with a brief overview of the long-debated electoral law, which is 2/3 proportional and 1/3 majoritarian. No surprise. This is the overly complicated Italian politics.
It is almost impossible to understand the political dynamics within the Italian elections if you don’t take into account the electoral mechanisms related to the distributions of seats in the Parliament following the outcomes of the vote. The Rosatellum bis, the current electoral law, tries to merge the majority and proportional system. You will encounter both single-member and multi-member constituencies throughout Italy. The Chamber of the Deputies and the Senate themselves will be elected with both systems: 37% of them will be established through majority while 61% will follow the traditional proportionality and 2% (12 seats) is dedicated to the voters abroad. To get access to the Parliament, a single party must meet the 3% minimum threshold of votes, while coalitions need at least 10%. Eventually, the so-called voto disgiunto (disjoint vote), which in the past allowed voting both for a particular candidate and for a different party, has finally disappeared, thus avoiding the toxic attitude of promising singular votes on a more personal level (buying of votes). The threshold to obtain the majority to form the government is set at 40%.
Here is the elections’ programme of the parties. We decided to focus on five key themes that have been long debated in the political campaigns: foreign policy & the EU, immigration, defence & security, human and civil rights.
The Right arises
In the upcoming elections, the Right is running with a three-party coalition usually named Listone (“the big list”). The Listone consists of Forza Italia, a centre-right party, Lega, far-right, and Fratelli D’Italia, another far-right party.
Forza Italia is a relatively old party. Through the last 25 years, it has sometimes changed its name but has always rested on centre-right principles, with an eye leaning towards great coalitions with the centre-left. Its leader and founder, Silvio Berlusconi, does not need any presentation. The paradox here lies in the fact that, following the judgment of the Constitutional Court he could not run for a seat in the Parliament until 2019. Nevertheless, his political campaign foresaw the signature of a “Pact with the Italians” and several appearances and debates with other political exponents. In these last days of the electoral campaign, Berlusconi has stated that Forza Italia’s candidate as PM will be Antonio Tajani, the current President of the European Parliament.
The Lega (“the League”) and Fratelli d’Italia (Italian Brothers) are more controversial parties. Whereas the former has progressively evolved from a northern secessionist to a national party following the model of the Front National, the former has inherited the long history of fascism. They are the expression of far-right principles and values, sometimes incurring in neo-fascist tendencies -they have denied more than once to define themselves as “anti-fascist” parties. The leader of the Lega, Matteo Salvini, is expected to be the candidate of the Right as Prime Minister. Fratelli D’Italia’s Giorgia Meloni, on the contrary, is highly unlikely to run for that chair. The programmatic points in common within the Right are expressed in the “Programme for Italy”, a 10-points declaration signed by the three leaders, which summarise the main priorities of their programmes.
Foreign Policy & the EU
As far as the foreign policy is concerned, especially with regards to Defence, Security and Immigration, points 3 and 5 of the Programme underline the aversion of the Right towards the “austerity policy” of the European Union. Moreover, the will to foster the national interests – especially on the economic and legal side, is expressed with a special protection of the “Made in Italy” and the primacy of the Italian Constitution over the European law –, also proposing a revision of the Treaties in order to go back to the pre-Maastricht status.
Regarding the economy, the Right will support the establishment of the so-called “Flat-tax”, which implies a standard taxation -precisely at 15% of the income- for every citizen. Their liberal approach also foresees the abolition of taxes of succession, donation and on the first house, as well as the no tax area for those that don’t have any income.
Their solutions for the migration crisis are focused on a “greater control of the borders” by blocking the Schengen principles, organising a “Marshall Plan for Africa” and stipulating bilateral agreements with the African countries about the displacement of people. Internally, they are in favour of an increased number of police officers and patrols in quarters and the establishment of the principle that “self-defence is always legitimate”.
On social themes, the central unit of the country is retrieved in the family, conceived as a mother-father-children community. Incentives for young mothers and economical exemptions proportionate to the numbers of children are some of the most remarkable strategies planned by the Listone.
Prediction of votes’ percentages:
Forza Italia: 18-20%
Lega con Salvini: 15-17%
Fratelli d’Italia: 4-5%
Total Coalition’s votes: 36-38%
Prime Minister Candidates: Antonio Tajani (current EP President) or Matteo Salvini (Secretary of Lega)
Five Star Movement
A single party that has always tried to refuse coalitions and agreements with other actors is the Five Star Movement, a populist party that has witnessed an incredible development since its foundation in 2009. Its spiritual leader is Beppe Grillo, a former comedian that, starting the protest days called “VaffaDay”, increased his consensus and managed to win the municipal elections in Rome, appointing a Five Star major, Virginia Raggi. Although he will not be the direct candidate for these elections, his party and the political leader Luigi di Maio are expected to surpass more than 30% of the votes next Sunday.
Foreign Policy & the EU
Notwithstanding the party had spent energies and time in support of a referendum about the exit from the Eurozone and the European Union itself, no such thing appears on its programme, except for a short statement about the importance of the ‘Made in Italy’. Its first straight attack on European institutions, therefore, seems a bit downsized in this campaign, most likely in an attempt to grab the votes of a more moderate electorate.
The economic strategy of the 5S Movement lies on the so-called reddito di cittadinanza (citizenship income), also securing a no tax area for incomes lower than 10k euros per year. Following the traditional rhetoric of the Movement, it also favours the abolition of economic privileges for the élites and the “useless investments”. At the same time, it aims to secure a 780 € minimum pension for every retired person.
Immigration & Security
On its bullet-points programme, the Five Star Movement joins the Right when it comes to the immigration management and the strengthening of the internal defence. Promising 10.000 more police units and two new prisons, it aligns itself with most of the right-wing project. At the same time, the 5S Movement aims at hiring thousands of people in order to better deal with the repatriation of an illegal immigrant, as well as to stipulate agreement with the countries from which the latter come from.
Prediction of votes’ percentage: 30-32%
Prime Minister candidate: Luigi Di Maio