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Italy: Update on Legislative Electoral Reform (Italicum)

(Feb. 7, 2017) On January 25, 2017, the Italian Constitutional Court issued a decision on the constitutionality of amendments to Italicum, the colloquial name given to the electoral reform introduced by Law No. 52 of 2015 on the election of members of the Chamber of Deputies. (Decisione sulla legge elettorale cd.Italicum, Corte Costituzionale website (Jan. 25, 2017); Dante Figueroa, Italy: Legislative Electoral Reform (Italicum), GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (June 4, 2015); Provisions Concerning the Elections of the Chamber of Deputies, Law No. 52 (May 6, 2015), GAZETTA UFFICIALE [G. U.], No. 105 (May 8, 2015), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).)

The Court affirmed the constitutionality of certain aspects of Italicum while amending others. (Alessio Sgherza, L’Italicum: cosa resta dopo la sentenza della Consulta [Italicum: What Is Left After the Decision on the Consultation], REPUBBLICA.IT (Jan. 25, 2017).) The Court decision also determined that Italicum “is susceptible of immediate application,” i.e., may be applied to the next election of Deputies held in Italy, scheduled for February 2018.  (Decisione sulla legge elettorale cd. Italicum, supra.)

While the Law No. 52 as now amended by the Decision maintains the proportional electoral system established by the original Italicum – the allocation of seats in the Chamber of Deputies made in proportion to the number of votes received – the calculation for the allocation of seats is now made on a national basis according to the “largest remainder” (dei più alti resti) method. (Sgherza, supra.)  To implement this rule, the new Italicum eliminates one of the main features of the original Italicum, according to which if no party received 40% of the vote, a runoff election would be held two weeks after the original election between the two parties that had received the highest number of votes, to allot to the winner an absolute majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies. (Law No. 52, art. 1(1)(f).)  Thus, under the newly amended Italicum, the party list obtaining a minimum of 40% of valid votes on a national basis may fill 340 seats out of the total 617 legislative slots, that is, 55% of the total.  (Law No. 52, art. 1(1)(f).)  The seat allocated to the Valle d’Aosta, a semi-autonomous region in northwestern Italy, and the 12 seats reserved for deputies elected overseas remain excluded from the calculation. (Sgherza, supra.)