Thu Sep 15th, 2005 at 02:49:43 PM EST
From Today's Financial Times, with thanks to Soj, and a good discussion in a comments thread, that led me to this:
Italy's opposition boycotts parliament
Italy's centre-left opposition on Wednesday boycotted parliament in protest at a government proposal to overhaul the voting system just months before next year's national election.
Opposition leaders fear the changes are designed to overcome their lead in opinion polls. They accused the centre-right coalition government of Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister, of subverting democracy by seeking to ram the changes through parliament without their consent.
"This is a desperate attempt to change the rules of the game at the last minute," said Romano Prodi, the centre-left leader who will fight Mr Berlusconi for the premiership in the elections, due by next May.
This sounds highly suspect to me, that a person that is currently in power and in trouble politically, is trying at the 11th hour to change the voting system in Italy.
Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia party and its three main allies announced plans on Tuesday to pass legislation that would change the electoral system in two fundamental ways.
First, Italy would move to full proportional representation, with parties being required to win at least 4 per cent of the national vote. At present, 75 per cent of parliamentarians are elected in first-past-the-post balloting in single-member constituencies, and 25 per cent are elected by proportional representation based on party lists.
Secondly, in the event of a close result between the centre-right and centre-left electoral blocs, the winning coalition would receive a "bonus" of seats, strengthening its ability to govern with a stable majority.
The winning coalition would be guaranteed at least 340 seats in the 630-seat lower house of parliament, and 170 seats in the 315-seat upper house.
The opposition objects to the 4 per cent threshold because it could penalise small centre-left parties unlikely to exceed that limit. By contrast, all the main parties in Mr Berlusconi's coalition stand a good chance of fulfilling the 4 per cent requirement.
The centre-left's chances of winning the election would be damaged if millions of votes for small centre-left parties did not translate into seats in parliament.
So, this is how Berlusconi runs his "democracy", if he looks like he is going to lose, he changes the rules of the game. Will he succeed?
Considerable doubts surround the government's ability to pass the reform, because it is uncertain whether the Union of Christian Democrats, a moderate party in Mr Berlusconi's coalition, is fully behind it.
If anyone in Italy, or is familiar with what is going on there, it would be great to hear your perspectives on this.