Europe 2009 – Italy


Italy will elect 72 MEPs (down from 78) in 2009, voting on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th June. Italy elects its MEPs via 5 constituencies (pictured below right), and seats are allocated by constituency for all parties who win over 4% of the national vote. In 2009, the constituencies will elect the following numbers of MEPs:

  • Central – 14
  • Islands – 8
  • North-East – 13
  • North-West – 19
  • South – 18

There have been quite dramatic changes to the Italian party system in recent years. Italian national elections have seen Italy’s parties coalesce into two broad coalitions, but these have not necessarily been replicated in European elections.

The 2004 election took place during the second term of conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The sitting President of the European Commission (effectively head of government for the EU) Romano Prodi was stepping down to reenter Italian national politics.

The centre-left coalition United in the Olive Tree covered much of the centre-left, although it was not as extensive as national left-wing coalitions, excluding Greens and Communists. As it was a coalition, it’s constituent parts joined different European parties. Their MEPs joined the following European parties:

  • Party of European Socialists – 16
  • Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – 6
  • European People’s Party – European Democrats – 3

On the other side, Berlusconi’s party Forza Italia (European People’s Party) won 16 seats, and the far-right National Alliance (Union for Europe of the Nations) won 9 seats.

Other parties winning seats were:

  • Communist Refoundation Party (United European Left) – 5
  • Union of Christian Democrats (EPP-ED) – 5
  • Lega Nord (UEN, formerly Independence/Democracy) – 4
  • The Greens (European Greens) – 2
  • Party of Italian Communists (UEL) – 2
  • 6 others in ALDE
  • 2 others in EPP-ED
  • 2 others

Since 2004, a lot has changed in Italy. Berlusconi was defeated by Prodi in 2006, before Prodi’s government fell in 2008 and saw Berlusconi reelected. The two largest parties on both sides of politics have also merged, creating the Democratic Party on the left and the People of Freedom (created from Forza Italia and the National Alliance) on the right.

In addition the more left-wing parties have coalesced into two coalitions, the Communist-dominated Anticapitalist Left and the Socialist and Green listed, running as “Left and Freedom”.

Most recent polls have People of Freedom clearly leading, polling in the high 30s or low 40s. In comparison, the constituent parties polled 31% in 2004. In contrast, the Democratic Party is polling 25-26%. The Olive Tree polled 31% in 2004. Although it’s worth noting some socialist parties who ran under Olive Tree in 2004 are not part of the Democratic Party, so it’s hard to judge if a 26% vote would be a backward step for the party. Neither People of Freedom or the Democratic Party has yet to determine which Europarty they will join, as both parties were created by mergers of parties who were part of different Europarties, but it appears they will likely join the respective major centre-left and centre-right coalitions.

The vote for far-right northern regionalist party Lega Nord has also jumped from 5% in 2004 to 9-10% in recent polls. The liberal party Italy of Values (ALDE), which polled about 2% in 2004, is polling 8-9%. The communist Anticapitalist Left polled about 8% in 2004, but is polling around 4%. The socialist-green coalition Left and Freedom is also polling lower than its 2004 performance.

It appears this election will see a shift to the right, and a strong gain for the European People’s Party, as the post-fascist National Alliance is brought into its coalition and the new People of Freedom gains ground on the left.

Correction: This post originally said that I couldn’t find the 2009 MEP numbers and had posted the 2004 MEP numbers per constituency. The numbers actually were the 2009 numbers.

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  1. Very interesting post and well written may I add. I’ve a few Italian friends that are very much into politics and struggle to fully explain how the system works; or why it works for that matter. But you’ve succinctly captured key elements to help give an overall picture.

    Is this for just the Italian peninsula and islands or will include global candidates? As I understand it the diaspora are able to elect people from the diaspora for their region (I think Australia is in the South East Asian/Pacific or something similar). However, I’m very happy to told otherwise that I’ve been very much lead astray.

  2. Why thank you.

    I don’t think Italian voters overseas get a vote, but I’m not quite sure.

    Australia is the predominant part of the “Oceania” electorate, which also covers our close neighbours in Asia and Africa.

  3. There certainly is no constituency for Italian voters overseas. Although all EU citizens living in a different EU country are free to run and vote in that country. So an Italian living in, say, Southampton, could vote in England South-East, but an Italian living in North Jersey couldn’t.

  4. Okay, just to clarify my comments AGAIN, the overseas constituencies are for Italy’s national Parliament. There are no overseas constituencies for Italians in European elections. However it is possible that they can vote in one of the other constituencies, I just don’t know.

    It’s interesting that French overseas departments elect 3 MEPs, while UK overseas territories do not get a vote, with the exception of Gibraltar, which is in Europe itself. Interesting, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are not part of the EU and their citizens do not vote, despite holding British citizenship.

  5. And noting that Italy will be further undermining proportional representation if the referendum on changing the electoral laws passes, giving the majority bonus to the biggest party list, not the biggest coalition. This should thoroughly skew proportionality, and inevitably create a two party system.

  6. A nice analysis. Though I wouldn’t describe Italia dei Valori as a liberal party. It’s more of a populistic anti-corruption party (and to a lesser extent, a personal machine for Antonio di Pietro, a famous Italian judge). Italia dei Valori’s membership goes from former Leghisti and Missini to the former hardline-PCI left.

    I don’t really understand the system (the way Italian electoral laws are devised, I don’t really think they expect you to), but I know that a 4% threshold was introduced, which explains the sudden formation of these leftie coalitions and the fascists joining with the PdL to save their rears. Though the Commies and the CommiesLite are both under 4% and they could potentially suffer yet another historical humiliation.

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