Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Electoral Reform Is Approved in Italy - Now the Hard Part

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Electoral Reform Is Approved in Italy - Now the Hard Part

Article excerpt

ITALIANS finally have a new electoral system, nearly four months after calling for it in a national referendum, but it will likely be longer still before they actually vote in a new Parliament.

The old guard in Parliament, many of whom have been discredited in the eyes of the public by two years of judicial investigations into kickbacks to political parties and ties to organized crime, approved an electoral reform measure in the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday and in the Senate yesterday.

Under the new law, 75 percent of each house of Parliament will be elected following the British model: There will be a single round of balloting, and the candidate getting the most votes will win the contested seat.

The remaining 25 percent of the houses will be elected according to the old proportional system, instituted after World War II to avoid the one-party system under fascism and allow a variety of voices to be represented in parliament. By 1992, the result was a vote split between 12 national political parties. But under a new provision, no party can enter Parliament that has not garnered at least 4 percent of the vote nationwide.

Before Parliament can be dissolved and a date announced for early elections, however, the electoral college must be redrawn, a process that under Italian law can take up to four months. Although it would be technically possible to vote before year's end, analysts say the anticipated political maneuvering will almost certainly mean elections will not be held until next year.

"This parliament, elected under the proportional system, was only able to approve {the electoral reform law} with great difficulty," says Stefano Ceccanti, a member of People for Reform, which pressed for the change toward the British electoral system.

"We need two great opposite political poles," says Mr. Ceccanti, outlining his group's philosophy, "and this is the principal reason for the delay.... The parties have to make this choice." And so far, he says, they have not come down firmly on the side of a two-party system. …

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