by de Gondi
Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 01:38:38 AM EST
General elections are underway in Italy on February 24 and 25. Both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies will be completely renewed while Regional elections are also being held in Lombardy, Lazio and Molise. With booths closed at 10 PM Sunday evening, turnout has decreased by more than 6 % nationally compared to the previous general elections (Update- final data: -7,38%). However in the three regions where regional elections are being held, turnout has been markedly superior to past elections, nearly 10% higher.
Italian elections open thread - afew
While weather may be a contributing factor, the high turnout in the aforementioned three regions, despite the weather, could indicate a strong political interest of voters where law allows them to effectively express their preferences. In fact, the past three general elections have been held with the so-called Porcellum electoral law which disenfranchised voters of their right to pick their representatives. With the present law, parties present blocked lists of candidates and the voter may only put his or her mark on a party or coalition symbol. A candidate may be in any number of lists throughout the peninsula according to coalition strategy, often arcane. Therefore candidates, whether elected or not, have no need or urgency to establish an electoral bond with the citizens that they will eventually represent. In contrast, in regional elections, candidates must get out and press flesh to earn people's votes. It's public meetings, local rallies and debates that motivate and empower people to participate.
The national scene was particularly depressing. Ruefully referred to as the 9-and-a-half weeks campaign, insults and gaffes, promises and gimmicks passively monopolized attention. It was basically a brawl between four major antagonists, each in his own setting, and two minor contenders of a lesser god, 9 ½ weeks without a single direct confrontation.
There are 169 parties participating in the elections, In Lazio there are 25 parties running for the Chamber, 28 for the Senate and 23 for the local regional elections. Most of these parties form coalitions. Berlusconi's coalition here consists of nine parties while the Democratic Party is allied with another three parties. Monti's coalition consists of three parties, while Beppe Grillo and Antonio Ingroia, respectively presidents of the Cinque Stelle Movement and the Civic Revolution, are running alone.
Monti and Grillo have in common that none of their party candidates has ever been elected to national office nor been subject to criminal investigations or indictments. Their respective programs have less in common both in style and content.
There has been significant renewal within the Democratic Party, the only party that actually held national primaries to choose candidates to get around the Porcellum law.
Berlusconi's rightwing coalition has renewed its bench with rookies through force of circumstances: it had to retire its more sordid elements due to criminal investigations, public outcry and defection. This may explain his message on Saturday when candidates are legally bound to silence: he declared that the judiciary branch was worse than the Sicilian mafia. If the message was addressed to someone, it hasn't been heeded. Turnout in Sicily, Campania and Calabria is at a record low.
Whatever the results there will be a generational turnover in the next legislature.
Booths close at 3 PM on Monday. There will be further updates and sundry thoughts upcoming. We're all looking forward to some good debates in the comments below as developments roll in. For some previous informative and interesting comments see the weekend thread in the Newsroom.