Italian Hung Parliament Could Lead to Revamp of Election Law

Italy’s election, which produced a divided parliament, underscores the need to revamp a voting law known as the “pigsty.”

The rules make it difficult for any party to win a working majority in both houses of Parliament. Both chambers have equal powers, making a working majority necessary to pass legislation and remain in power.

The current law was passed by Silvio Berlusconi’s second government in 2005 and dubbed the pigsty by Roberto Calderoli, Berlusconi’s reforms minister of the time. The system forces voters to cast ballots for lists of candidates handpicked by the party readers rather than voting for individual candidates.

Here are some details on how the law works:

-- Voting age: 18 years for the Chamber of Deputies, 25 years for the Senate.

-- Election eligible age: members of the lower house must be at least 25 years old, senators 40 years old.

-- Election of Chamber of Deputies: the lower house has 630 deputies, the majority is 316. Twelve seats are assigned to electoral districts outside Italy and one to the small region of Aosta Valley. The remaining 617 deputies come from 26 constituencies with a proportional system.

-- The party or coalition that wins a relative majority automatically gets 54 percent of seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The threshold to get seats are 10 percent on a national basis for coalitions, and 2 percent for lists within a coalition; 4 percent for unaligned lists and lists in coalitions winning less than 10 percent of votes.

-- One seat is assigned to Aosta Valley, 7 to Trentino Alto-Adige, 2 to Molise, 6 to Italians abroad.

-- Election of Senate: the upper house has 315 seats, the majority is 158. Getting an outright majority in the Senate is more difficult because the seat premium assigned to the winning coalition is allocated on a regional basis rather than at the national level, meaning the law tends to reward those parties, like the Northern League, that have a strong regional base.

-- Apart from the 309 seats assigned to the regional contests, six seats are reserved for Italians living abroad.

-- The winning coalition in a region is guaranteed at least 55 percent of the seats assigned to that region. The regions with the highest number of seats are Lombardy (49), Lazio (28), Campania (29), Sicily (25) and Veneto (24).

-- The threshold for representation in the Senate are 20 percent for coalitions at the regional level, 3 percent for lists within a coalition, 8 percent regionally for unaligned lists or lists in coalitions winning less than 20 percent of votes.

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