The Political Economy of Italian Electoral Reform
The Locke Institute series
Chapter 8: Political Coalition Formation under the New Rules
In this chapter, we are concerned with observing and explaining some of the eﬀects of the new rules on the electoral strategies of parties in political coalitions. Our analysis will focus on the most recent election to the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house) held in April 1996. Let us brieﬂy recall the rules for the election of members to the Chamber of Deputies. They are as follows: approximately three-quarters are now elected on a plurality basis, while the remaining quarter is elected proportionally and essentially on a regional basis.1 This is operationalised by allowing voters to express two simultaneous votes: one for the single-member college candidate (a Plurality (PL) ballot) and the other for the party for the proportional allocation of seats (a Proportional Representation (PR) ballot). Since each voter has two simultaneous votes available, he or she can express a double preference for a party, by voting for it in the PR ballot and for that party’s candidate in the PL ballot. Alternatively, the voter can express split preferences by voting for a party in the PR ballot, but not for that party’s candidate in the PL ballot. This phenomenon, which has been described as a ‘switching-voter phenomenon’ (Navarra, 1997), can signiﬁcantly inﬂuence the overall results of the elections and, consequently, the formation of the government. Indeed, it may be seen that this underlies the results of the 1996 Italian general election. The 1996 Italian general election was contested by two large coalitions that...
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