by de Gondi
Mon Apr 14th, 2008 at 07:01:21 AM EST
"May the worst lose."
Courtesy of l'Espresso
Update [2008-4-14 9:17:26 by DoDo]: Polling booths closed, exit polls are in, live-blogging begins!
Polling booths will close today at 3 PM. Exit polls will be available within minutes while official results are scheduled to trickle out starting at 4 PM. As in the last elections in 2006 final results may not be expected until late into the night. The Minister of the Interior has directed poll booth authorities to count the ballots one at a time so as to further assure the regularity of the procedure. This will presumably slow down the count.
Voter abstention at closing time last night was a significant -4%. If the trend continues today abstention may go over the historical 20% threshold. By standards in other democracies there is a very high voter turnout in Italy. It has however progressively eroded since the early nineties to an all time low in 2001 (18.6% abstention). In the 2006 elections there was an inversion of the tendency (16.4% abstention). It will be difficult to calculate the impact of abstention on these elections since there are two major reasons for not voting: apathy or protest, the former penalizing the right, the latter the left.
The latest prediction market results made available at midnight for April 6th, give the rightwing coalition at 42.2% with the Democratic Party at 38.9%, an insignificant rise for the center-left. The Catholic right coalition, the Union of Democrat Christians has held at 6.5%, while the other significant player, the far-left Rainbow coalition has slightly lost ground, down to 7.5%. The minor new fascist party, La Destra, remains at 2.8%, not enough to make it over the 4% quorum for the House. This party will however play a role in draining votes away from the Berlusconi right-wing coalition in key regions such as Lazio.
While the outcome for the Chamber of Deputies appears certain with a solid right-wing majority, the Senate remains a lottery. Opinion polls published a fortnight ago indicated that at least four regions could go either way, Liguria, Sardinia, Calabria and Abruzzo. However, the present system of assigning Senators in each region could give surprise upsets in any other region for a handful of votes.
It is unlikely that the Senate will express a clear majority, thus repeating the situation the Prodi government had to deal with these past two years. Once again the Senators-for-life will play a key role in government stability. Since Senators-for-life are appointed by the President of the Republic for outstanding merits it is normal that they tend to express the cultural values of the left. Of the Senators-for-life the rightwing can expect the occasional support of Francesco Cossiga and Giulio Andreotti, the only two conservatives.
Someone recently remarked that the Modern Right no longer destroys, it simply prevents things from being born. Italy has spent the last fifteen years in transition wandering aimlessly through the rubble of the first republic. Whatever the outcome of these elections, there is one clear loser: Italy.