How will the snap elections in Italy be different?

Barring any surprises, Italy is on track to have its first far-right prime minister, following the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government. Elections are scheduled for Sunday, the first since the adoption of constitutional changes that reduced the size of the two parliamentary chambers. It also comes as the euro zone’s third-largest economy – and one of the most indebted – grapples with the fallout from soaring energy prices, rising interest rates and the invasion of the coronavirus. Ukraine by Russia.

A right-wing alliance led by Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy, which also includes Matteo Salvini’s League party and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which overthrew Draghi’s government. If the bloc wins, Meloni could become Italy’s first female prime minister. Former Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s Democratic Party is running with smaller center and left allies, while the anti-establishment Five Star movement is operating on its own. A centrist coalition of former Democrats is also present.

2. When will we know the results?

Polls close at 11 p.m. local time, and exit polls will be released immediately, with more accurate seat projections to come overnight. Parliament is due to meet on October 13 to elect its presidents. After that, the process of forming a new government officially begins. Draghi will remain interim prime minister until the new government is in place, probably in the second half of October.

3. How is this election different?

Constitutional reforms approved in a referendum in 2020 reduced the number of senators to 200 from 315 and deputies to 400 from 630. As a result, constituencies were remapped and expanded. Around 37% of the seats will be allocated to candidates from the parties that obtain the most support in the constituencies, while the rest will be allocated in proportion to the number of votes they obtain at the national level. The system encourages parties to form coalitions, as this increases their chances of winning majority seats in one round. Parties must reach 3% of the vote to qualify for proportional representation seats, and coalitions 10%. The campaign coincided with the summer holiday season – planning that had been avoided for the past century, mainly due to the need to push through the annual budget in mid-autumn. Officials have been busy preparing new growth, debt and deficit forecasts as part of an abbreviated budget due to be released within days of the vote of Draghi’s outgoing government.

4. What is the difference between the lower house and the Senate?

Under Italy’s constitution, both chambers have equal powers and the appointment of the prime minister and any legislation must be approved by both. Party leaders typically run for a seat in the Senate, whose president is the nation’s second-highest ranking official. A recent constitutional change lowered the minimum voting age for members of the Senate from 25 to 18, to bring it into line with the lower house, called the Chamber of Deputies. Candidates must be at least 40 years old to be elected senators and at least 25 years old to be elected deputies.

5. How is the Prime Minister chosen?

The prime minister is appointed by the president, whose role as head of state is essentially ceremonial, after consultation with political parties. In practice, the coalition that wins the election designates who the person should be. He or she then selects ministers (also officially nominated or dismissed by the president) to form a government, which requires a vote of confidence from parliament within 10 days of its first session. If there is no outright winner in the election, the president can give a conditional mandate to someone he thinks can muster enough support to form a unity government or a broad coalition. If no one can cobble together a majority, the president can dissolve parliament and call new elections – even if that would be unprecedented.

6. Why has Italian politics been so unstable?

The country has been highly fragmented, with allegiances split between a multitude of parties, more than 20 of which are represented in the outgoing legislature. Many have similar ideologies but disagree on who gets key leadership positions. Coalitions often include three or more parties and are notoriously unstable. Party skipping is also commonplace, with more than 400 MPs and senators having changed allegiance since 2018. Five Star, once the country’s largest political force, has seen its number of MPs in the lower house more than halve since the previous vote.

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