Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
The pure proportional system of the so-called First Republic was trashed in the 1993 referendum by an overwhelming majority. Clean Hands was in full swing and all the parties that owed their "raison d'etre" and their inordinate power to the Cold War simply crumbled into splinter groups. Parliament could do little else but bow to popular dictate and create the present hybrid majoritarian system with a pinch of proportional.

Regardless of all its shortcomings, the electoral reform of 1994 ushered in the second republic and has since been the rule of the game.

Berlusconi's attempt to change the rules of the game at the eighty-ninth minute is beyond contempt. Disregarding the fawning blither of his peons, outrage is unanimous. Berlusconi has been decisively thrashed in every election held recently with the amusing exception of Catania. Despite his continuous losses and his coalition in shambles, he has never contemplated resigning.

Given the disastrous state of the Italian economy, Ciampi had expressed the wish to have early elections by February 2006 so that a new government with a fresh mandate could take the necessary and drastic measures that Berlusconi is anthropologically incapable of handling. Berlusconi will have none of that and intends to exploit what little time is left to shove through his destructive and self-serving reforms. Since he has a solid majority of faceless button-pushers that he keeps in line with gold rolexes, his "reforms" may actually become law.

At the same time he is personally obliged to stay in power, if nothing more for the numerous criminal trials that await him both in Italy and Spain. (Chirac is on the same sort of boat, too.)

There would be two major consequences if his electoral reform bill were to pass as is. In a poll published today by la Repubblica based on 1000 voters' preferences, the left was favoured by 55%. Under the actual law, the left would have 363 deputies to the rights' 263 deputies. Under the proposed law the winning majority would have 290 deputies to the losers' 340 deputies. I hope that makes sense.

The second consequence would be a weak government incapable of expressing a durable political agenda. A government continually held at bay by party bosses and backroom power bases, much like the first republic. The left has promised to repeal the worst of Berlusconi's laws once in power. Fat chance if this electoral law passes.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Sep 15th, 2005 at 05:49:25 PM EST
Excellent commentary. Please write more in the near future.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Sep 16th, 2005 at 03:37:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This will be a technical comment to help explain the arcanes of the proposed bill and how it is tailor made to screw the Left.

One of the merits of the Left in general is the multiplicity of different voices. It's a sign of vitality, of novel proposals and a desire to participate. But when it comes to the political arena with its ritual of periodical elections, this fragmentation is a handicap. In decades of proportional voting in Italy, the left had the rare opportunity to be a nebulous of small parties, since it was condemned by the Cold War to be the eternal opposition. Conversely, the Democrat Christians were condemned to rule until the wall came down. And both political blocks new well that neither could exist without the other.

Unlike the Right, the new Italian Left continues to be split into small parties. The Right coalition consists of four parties: the UDC (ex-conservative DC), the racist Lega Nord, Allianza Nazionale (born from the thighs of democratic fascism), and Berlusconi's personal political entity, Forza Italia.

The Left coalition consists of three major political parties: the DS (ex-Italian Communist Party), the Margherita (a centrist civic party), and Rifondazione (a dissident off-shot of the ex-PCI). The coalition also includes another six parties: the Green party, a couple of socialist parties, an ex-left DC party,  Di Pietro's civic party and something called la Sbarbati.

In the 2001 elections that brought Berlusconi to power, the left had the majority vote but two crucial parties had elected to run alone (Di Pietro and Rifondazione) thus subtracting vital votes from the Left coalition.

In the coming election all nine parties are running in the same coalition not only to win but to have representation in parliament. Under the present law, there is a 4% threshold for the House of Deputies (not the Senate). However if a small party that has no possibility of reaching 4% nationally but can be crucial in a particular local election, it has bargaining power within the coalition. In short, all these little parties are going to send their Mr. Smith to Rome, if the Left coalition wins.

Under Berlusconi's proposed bill, any single party within a coalition that has less than 4% nationally cannot have representation. All four parties of the Right coalition are likely to garner enough votes to beat the threshold. None of the six minor parties on the left will ever get more than 2,5%. However their combined votes exceed 10%.

So there's the mathematics. If the left wins 55% of the vote, at least 10% gets thrown out. That means ten percent of the voting population has no right to representation. That makes it neck to neck with Berlusconi a possible winner. Since the "winning" coalition gets a premium of seats that explains the numbers in my previous comment.

There is also the question of the Italian electorate abroad. If I'm correct they vote for six senators and six deputies. Berlusconi passed the Mirko Tremaglia law that allowed them to vote abroad as described in a post over at Booman. Given Berlusconi's control over the Italian community press abroad, and his phenomenal capacity to butter people up with empty promises, he's likely to gain all twelve seats. He is just back from NYC where I'm quite sure he did a lot of baby-hugging between shady deals.

President Ciampi made a pointed speech yesterday against the temptation to return to the past. Nostalgia blinds us to the fact that the past is always worse, and we should only look to build a future, he said.

The proposed bill may be presented in parliament as early as September 29th.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Sep 16th, 2005 at 04:55:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Top Diaries

Occasional Series