Rules, Choice and Strategy
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Rules, Choice and Strategy

The Political Economy of Italian Electoral Reform

Ram Mudambi, Pietro Maria Navarra and Giuseppe Sobbrio

This topical book analyses the change of electoral rules in Italy from proportional representation toward plurality. While Italy is used as the illustrative case, the analysis has far-ranging theoretical and practical implications, and will therefore be of interest to academics and researchers of political economy, constitutionalism and public choice.
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Chapter 8: Political Coalition Formation under the New Rules

Ram Mudambi, Pietro Maria Navarra and Giuseppe Sobbrio


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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