Italy's Electoral Law Ruled Unconstitutional

Thu, 12/05/2013 - 12:24

The Constitutional Court ruled Italy's current electoral law is unconstitutional.

The ruling puts pressure on the Italian parliament to change a law widely seen as making election results uncertain, as it happened in February's inconclusive vote, and not allowing voters to choose a specific candidate to vote for.

The present electoral system, approved on December 14, 2005, replaced an Additional Member Electoral System which had been introduced in the 1990s.The system is based on party-list representation with a series of thresholds to encourage parties to form coalitions, but it also implied that voters cast votes for a party list rather than for individual candidates.  As seats are allocated to each party in proportion to the number of votes the party received, political parties could easily decide who to put at the top of their lists of candidates to make sure certain party members would be elected. Candidates on the lists were therefore ranked in order of priority, so if a party won for example 15 seats, the first 15 candidates on its list received seats in parliament. This law is know as "Porcellum" (muck) referring to the fact that parties have abused the system to guarantee re-election to unpopular but powerful figures, who would have likely lost the elections if voters had to vote for them directly.

The Constitutional Court ruled against both the so-called 'blocked' lists that stop voters from picking MPs and a bonus that gives the winner in the House a large majority. Praise was unanimous among politicians after the ruling, however, many political analysts and politicians are pointing out how the court's decision delegitimizes the electoral results of the past 3 elections (2006, 2008 and 2013), all the laws passed during the past 8 years as well as the position of the current President of the Republic and the Constitutional Court itself as they were appointed by a parliament elected according to this electoral system.

Beppe Grillo, leader of the Movimento Cinque Stelle (Five Star Movement) said: "The parties, Letta, Napolitano, they're no longer legitimate...The parliament should be dissolved and the ballot boxes opened. There's no alternative". Others are instead asking the current parliament to act immediately to pass a new electoral law before the next elections.