- Many different factors can be influential on the choice of the people in free and fair elections which are the requirements of democracy. Economic, political, social, and other reasons determine people’s political choice and political power. However, how this people’s will can be reflected, how the votes will be counted, how it will be represented and how many seats it will correspond to are actually determined according to the election laws. Also, electoral laws, like all laws, are actually the product of the legislature’s political choice. Moreover, since the election laws have a special and direct effect and importance on the determination of the next election result and the next political power, they are the laws that it especially is wanted to shape by the current political power in order to ensure their continuity. However, like many other laws, it is important for legal security that they preserve certain basic principles, conform to the constitution of the country, and have little variability. Moreover, the frequent changes in election laws depending on the political power is a threat to democracy. In other words, stable electoral laws in accordance with the constitution and the requirements of democracy are the requirement of free and fair election and the legal and formal condition of the fair reflection of the will of the voters.
- Electoral laws are basically based on the political choice of the legislator over how to resolve the conflict of interest between the fair representation of the votes, and the creation of strong and thus stable governments. Italy also for the same purposes, from the beginning of the reform process until today, four law changes have been made under different names. These changes; Mattarellum made in 1993, Porcellum made in 2005, Italicum made in 2014, and Rosatellum made in 2017.
- During the process that started with the arrest of Mario Chiesa from the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) on February 17, 1992, on the grounds that he was bribed, a serious network of corruption emerged within the political parties. In the continuation of the process, the decrease in trust in political parties and the economic problems experienced by political parties led to the shrinkage of political parties and this situation caused the 1993 Election Reform (MATTARELLUM) to come into effect. The most important aspect of this change is that the proportional representation system, which has been applied since 1948, was terminated and the transition to the mixed system. Proportional representation electoral systems, on the other hand, are the common name of systems that require political parties to be represented in proportion to their votes. For this reason, it can be said that as a result of this election law, a majoritarian understanding has been adopted. This understanding resulted in the bipolar formation of political life and an increase in pre-election alliances.
- The 2005 election reform (PORCELLUM) is the Berlusconi government’s amendment to the electoral law for purely political motives. This change has many unusual and troublesome features. Firstly, the electoral law change was made just before the election. Secondly, the method of voting candidates for parties by lists has been adopted, but some electoral districts are still allowed to nominate individual candidates. One of the most interesting aspects of the change is that it allows a candidate to be included in the list of more than one constituency. For example, Berlusconi ran as the top of the list in all electoral districts. In addition, a premium system that can transform the simple majority into absolute majority has been adopted. In order to ensure stability in the administration, according to this regulation, the number of seats of the party or alliance that received the highest number of votes at the “national level” in the parliamentary elections is increased to 340. However, this regulation seriously harms the principle of fairness in representation. This situation was clearly observed especially in the 2013 elections. “According to the 2013 election results, each of the alliances (the left alliance led by the Democratic Party and the right alliance led by Forza Italy) and the Five Star Movement received over 25% of the vote. Even though it won the election by a very small margin, it also won the majority with the most votes. As a matter of fact, although the left alliance had 29% of the votes, it was entitled to the majority because it received the highest vote among those participating in the election. Thus, the representation rate in the Assembly of Deputies suddenly reached 54% due to the majority premium. ” (Altınsu & Arıkan)
- The next two electoral laws were basically shaped as a result of the annulment decisions of the Italian Constitutional Court. In 2014, the Constitutional Court annulled many articles of the electoral reform, including the provision known as the “majority premium”. According to the court, it was unconstitutional that the relevant article of the law did not specify the minimum rate of votes that the party or alliance of parties should receive in the elections. In other words, the precondition for qualifying for the majority premium had to be reaching the minimum vote limit set by the legislature. The basis of this decision of the Constitutional Court is the principle of equality of votes regulated in Article 48 of the Italian Constitution. Simply, the votes should be equal in effect and value. According to the ITALICUM law amendment dated 2014, the party or alliance of parties with the most votes must reach a minimum 40% voting rate in order to qualify for the majority premium. Otherwise, the party with the most votes in the 2nd round will be entitled to the majority premium. This change was a system that tried not to harm the representation of the minority votes, but secured the majority.
- Finally, with the effect of the Italian Constitutional Court Decision dated 2017, the Italian election system ROSATELLUM took its final appearance. The provision stating that if the sufficient majority (40%) could not be achieved, the election would remain in the second round was annulled, thus the system that would provide the majority under all conditions and lead to relatively more stable decisions was disabled. This is a positive development in terms of the principle of equality of votes. However, given the fragmented structure in Italian politics and the political order in which a third party is now strongly involved, it is a very strong possibility that Italian politics are and will be the scene of coalitions. Another observed risk is that the parties see the way to achieve this more difficult majority as populist discourse and powers. Also, this volatile and complex nature of Italy’s electoral systems remains a problem for democracy.
Altınsu, O., & Arıkan, C. (n.d.). ITALY’S ELECTION SYSTEM REFORMS IN THE CONTEXT OF SEEKİNG GOVERNANCE STABILITY. dergipark.org.tr.
ITALIAN CONSTITUTIONI.pdf. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.adaletbiz.com: https://www.adaletbiz.com/images/dosyalarim/
The Democratic Space Barometer/ Italy. (n.d.). Retrieved from /www.v-dem.net: https://www.v-dem.net/en/analysis/DemSpace/