Andrea Pin - 27 November 2017 

(This article draws from a contribution of Stefano Ceccanti)


The « Rosato » Law

How does the new election law work?

Law no. 165, issued on November 3, 2017, now governs Parliamentary Elections in Italy. It takes the name of its first proponent, the member of the Chamber of the Deputies Ettore Rosato.

What follows summarizes how the law works.


The election law’s structure is the same for the Chamber of the Deputies and the Senate, thereby mirroring the symmetrical powers of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

The Italian territory is subdivided into electoral districts both for the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The voter casts a different voting paper for each Chamber.

Both papers contain a list of candidates for the relevant electoral district. Each candidate is connected with one or more closed lists, which include up to four candidates. Party lists can form broader coalitions. Political coalitions cannot vary from one district to another.

The voter has three options:

  1. If she votes for a list, then her vote will also go to the district’s candidate;
  2. She can vote for both the candidate and the candidate’s list;
  3. If she votes for the candidate only, then her vote will go to the coalition. Voters who do not opt for any list do not count in terms of distributing votes among lists within the same coalition.


The Chamber of Deputies

The Chamber of Deputies has 630 seats.

Each of the 232 electoral districts elects one member to the Chamber through the plurality voting system. 12 members are elected by Italian citizens abroad according to the proportionality system. The remaining 386 seats are distributed proportionally among the running coalitions and, within coalitions, among the lists, according to the national coalitions’ turnout. Coalitions participate in the distribution of seats only if they meet the 10% threshold of coalition votes; lists below 3% do not receive seats.


The Senate

The Senate has 315 seats, plus a handful of members appointed for life by the President of the Republic.

116 electoral districts each elect one member. 6 Senators are elected abroad. The remaining 193 seats are allotted following the proportionality method, according to each coalition’s regional turnout. The thresholds for the allocation of seats among coalitions of lists for the Chamber of Deputies also apply here.


The Impact of the Discipline on the Political System

Albeit similar to other domestic electoral systems in Europe, the new election law does not grant political stability because the plurality mechanism elects only a portion of seats in both Chambers, while the majority of the seats are elected proportionally. The turnout of such a mix of mechanisms will hardly provide a clear parliamentary majority. Negotiations, including dismemberments of pre-election coalitions, will likely ensue. Post-election negotiations will be needed to form a coherent parliamentary majority in both Chambers, which is necessary, as the executive power who is vested in the Council of Ministries needs the confidence of the Parliament to govern.

Since the new electoral system translates the fragmented political scenario into the Chamber, the President of the Republic, who appoints the head of the Government after the elections, is likely to play a significant role in the post-electoral negotiations, consistent with what has already happened for almost a decade.