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Italy: New Law on Election of Members of Congress

(Jan. 2, 2018) On December 11, 2017, new legislation on the election of members of Congress came into effect in Italy. (Law No. 165 of November 3, 2017, Amending the Electoral System for the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic, Delegating Authority to the Government to Determine Uninominal and Plurinominal Electoral Constituencies (Law No. 165), GAZZETTA UFFICIALE [G.U.] (Nov. 11, 2017), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).) Law No. 165 amends Decree of the President of the Republic No. 361 of June 3, 1957, Approving the Consolidated Text of Laws Related to the Election of the Chamber of Deputies (DPR No. 361) (G.U. (June 3, 1957), Ministry of the Interior website (in Italian).) The law has been colloquially called “Rosatellum Bis,” after Ettore Rosato of the Chamber of Deputies, who proposed it; the version that passed was the second on this subject proposed by him. (Cos’è il Rosatellum Bis, Spiegato Senza Giri di Parole [What is Rosatellum Bis, Explained in Plain Language], TPI NEWS (Oct. 26, 2017);  Rosatellum Bis, Come Funziona le Legge Elettorale dei Nominati [Rosatellum Bis, How the Electoral Law of the Nominated Works], ILFATTOQUOTIDIANO.IT (Oct. 26, 2017).)

Amendments to the Electoral System of the Chamber of Deputies

The Italian electoral system has historically oscillated between a majoritarian system, in which the winner takes all of the seats, and a proportional system, in which electors are subdivided, based on the territory, into electoral colleges. These electoral colleges may be uninominal (when the college elects one representative), or plurinominal (when they elect two or more representatives). (Sistemi elettorali [Electoral Systems], Treccani  (last visited Dec. 26, 2017).)

The current electoral reform seeks to generate political stability by fostering stable party coalitions that can elect and sustain a government in Italy’s parliamentary system. (Alessio Sgherza, Rosatellum Bis: la Nuova Legge Elettorale. Ecco Come Funziona (la Scheda) [Rosatellum Bis: The New Electoral Law. This Is How the Card Works], R.it (Oct. 26, 2017). Thus, while the election system for the Chamber of Deputies established by DPR No. 361 was based on competing candidates and several rounds of elections until a majority was reached, Law No. 165 institutes a single election round between candidates, in which the candidate with the largest number of votes wins. (Law No. 165, art. 1(1)(1).) As set forth in the new legislation, the national territory is henceforth divided into electoral districts (circoscrizioni elettorali) in which 231 uninominal electoral colleges (collegi uninominali) are created, divided on the basis of the national population. (Id. art. 1(1)(2).) The Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol and Molise districts are divided, respectively, into six and two uninominal colleges; the other, plurinominal (multi-name), electoral districts are assigned a minimum of three seats and a maximum of eight. (Id. art. 1(1)(2 & 3).) The candidate with the highest vote in each electoral district is automatically elected. (Nicole Bilotta, Italy’s New Election Law: A Primer, GLOBAL RISK INSIGHT (last visited Dec. 22, 2017).)

Candidate Lists

DPR No. 361 states that each voter has one vote from among a list of candidates. The amending Law provides that each voter has one vote to be registered on a single card bearing the name of the candidate of the uninominal electoral college and the party symbol of each list, accompanied by the names of the candidates in the plurinominal electoral college. (Law No. 165, art. 1(4).) Unlike the situation under DPR No. 361, according to Law No. 165 “a voter cannot vote for a candidate of one party in their district while supporting a different party or coalition at the national level.” (Id.; Bilotta, supra.)

Under the new Law, political parties or organized political groups may declare their connection in a “coalition list” submitted reciprocally by them. (Law No. 165,  art. 1(7).) Such parties and groups must include in their declaration of coalition a statement identifying the uninominal electoral college of the respective district where they will nominate the same candidate as other parties or groups of the coalition. (Id.)

Candidacy Listing Qualifications and Valid Ballots

The new Law sets the minimum number of voters’ signatures required for nominating candidates for seats in plurinonimal electoral colleges and for indicating the candidates on the lists in uninominal electoral colleges that are also included in the plurinominal electoral district. (Id. art. 1(10)(a).) The new Law stipulates that no list, whether from a single party or a coalition or in uninominal electoral colleges at the national level, can make up greater than 60% of the total number of candidates. (Id. art. 1(10)(e).) No person may be a candidate in more than one electoral college.  (Id. art. 1(11).)  If the candidacy in one uninominal electoral college is declared invalid, the nomination of the list in other uninominal electoral colleges remains valid. (Id. art. 1(15).) Law No. 165 provides that for purposes of calculating valid votes, blank voting cards and invalid voting cards are not to be counted. (Id. art. 1(20).)

Other Relevant Provisions of the New Law Regarding the Chamber of Deputies

DPR No. 361 provided that the District Office of the National Central (electoral) Office was required to proclaim as elected the candidate of the list that had obtained the largest individual number of votes; the new Law provides, instead, that elected candidates are those who in each plurinominal electoral college receive the largest number of votes, within the limit of seats to which each list is entitled. (Id. art. 1(28).)

The new Law includes additional rules on the assignment of seats to lists that are not filled in from the lists after votes are tallied. (Id.)

Amendments to the Electoral System of the Senate of the Republic

With the exception of Valle d’Aosta and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol regions, the new Law subdivides the national territory into 109 uninominal electoral colleges for purposes of senatorial elections. Apart from the Molise region, which as a small region that historically has had its own Senator and is constituted as a uninominal electoral college, the remaining uninominal electoral colleges are established in the other regions in proportion to their respective population. In these uninominal electoral colleges, the candidate with the highest number of valid votes wins the election. (Id. art. 2(1).)

In each plurinominal electoral college, each list consists of a roster of candidates presented by each political party or movement (i.e., the Cinque Stelle Movement) in numerical order. The number of candidates may not be less than half of the seats assigned to the college and may not be higher than the number of seats assigned to that college. In any case, the number of candidates may not be less than two or greater than four, with the exception of the colleges where only one seat is assigned, in which case the list consists of one candidate only. (Id. art. 2(3)(c).)

Delegation of Legislative Powers to the Government to Determine Electoral Constituencies

Law No. 165 delegates power to the government to adopt regulations consistent with the Law’s provisions on the election of members of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic for the determination of the respective uninominal and plurinominal electoral colleges. (Id. art. 3(1)-(2).) Any regulations adopted by the government must guarantee the coherence of the territorial integrity of each college as well as the socioeconomic, historic, and cultural homogeneity of each territory. (Id. art. 3(2)(d).)

For preparing regulations on the division of municipalities into colleges, the government must appoint a commission composed, among others, of the president of the National Statistical Institute, and the draft of the regulations must be sent to both chambers of Parliament for consideration by the respective parliamentary commissions. (Id. art. 3(3)-(4).) Within three months from the date of entry into force of Law No. 165, the government must also establish experimental modalities for the digital collection of signatures necessary for the nomination of candidate lists for electoral purposes and for the use of digital, qualified electronic signatures. (Id. art. 3(7).)