Italians head to the polls on Sunday to elect a new government in a general election. A new electoral system will also be used for the first time. Here are some key points.
The number of deputies to be elected in the lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. Voters must be at least 18.
The number of senators to be elected in the upper house, the Senate of the Republic. Voters must be at least 25.
The number of separate governments Italy has had since the Second World War. That has, however, stabilised, with two in nine years.
The average voter turnout by Italians in elections, reflecting their obsession with politics. Compulsory voting was abolished in 1992.
Checks and balances
After the turmoil of the Second World War and the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, Italy was a divided country, with the south broadly voting in 1946 to support a monarchy, and the more populous north voting for a republic.
The nation was split too between Communists and Christian Democrats, and the new constitution was meant to ensure a dictator could never take power again. It allows for regional variations, and a Prime Minister must have majority support in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic. In a nation of many small parties, this need for a majority in both houses is hard to achieve.
The government of Silvio Berlusconi from 2008 to 2013 was the first to last its full five-year term.
PARTIES AND LEADERS
Leader: Matteo Renzi (42)
Policies: Currently in power, it wants to negotiate with Italy’s partners to abolish the European Union’s Fiscal Compact which imposes steep budget cuts on high-debt countries such as Italy. Raise the budget deficit to 3 per cent of gross domestic product for five years to cut taxes and increase investment. Continuity in social and foreign policy, with Italy maintaining its traditional pro-NATO stance.
Polling: Support sliding in opinion polls, now at around 23 per cent.
Leader: Luigi Di Maio (31)
Policies: Eniversal income support to ensure monthly income of at least €780 (Dh3,532) monthly; renegotiate the Fiscal Compact; raise the budget deficit above 3 per cent of GDP to cut taxes and increase investments; hold a referendum on euro membership if partners refuse any concessions on the Fiscal Compact; cut privileges of politicians, trade unions and well-off pensioners; repeal 2011 pension reform to allow earlier retirement; repeal 2014 labour reform to make firing harder; raise taxes on banks and oil and gas companies; toughen conflict of interest rules; cut red tape, abolishing 400 laws; scrap public financing of newspapers; separate banks’ retail and investment arms; improve relations with Russia.
Polling: Italy’s most popular party, support at around 28 per cent.
Leader: Silvio Berlusconi (81).
Policies: Introduce parallel currency for domestic use to boost the economy while keeping the euro for international trade and use by tourists; replace current staggered income tax rates with a single rate “flat tax” of around 23 percent for both individuals and companies; double monthly minimum pensions to €1,000; abolish housing tax, inheritance tax and road tax on most cars; tax breaks for pet owners; guarantee minimum income of €1,000 per month for everyone; block the arrival of immigrants through accords with North African countries. Berlusconi is pro-NATO but boasts of his friendship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Berlusconi cannot run at the election due to a tax fraud conviction. He has not yet said who Forza Italia’s candidate for prime minister will be.
Polling: Support rising, around 16 per
cent, with a centre-right coalition expected to win most seats on Sunday.
Leader: Matteo Salvini (44).
Policies: Parallel currency for domestic use; push for abolition of the Fiscal Compact; leave the euro as soon as it is politically feasible; “flat tax” for individuals and companies at 15 per cent; repeal 2011 pension reform to allow earlier retirement; immigration crackdown by intercepting and sending back migrant boats and repatriating up to 100,000 illegal immigrants per year; toughen penalties for violent crime; improve relations with Russia.
Polling: Support slipping, around 13 per cent.
Brothers of Italy
Leader: Giorgia Meloni (40).
Policies: Immigration crackdown by intercepting and sending back migrant boats and repatriating illegal immigrants; toughen penalties for violent crime; improve relations with Russia. Policies generally close to the Northern League’s but unlike the League, its support is based in central and southern Italy.
Polling: Support stable at around 5 per cent.
Free and Equal
Leader: Piero Grasso (72)
Policies: The left-wing party was formed three months ago to unite small movements which had left the PD in dissent with Renzi, who they said had moved it too far to the right. Repeal 2014 labour reform to make firing harder; soften 2011 pension reform to end automatic increases in the retirement age for rising life expectancy, increase spending on education, health and public works; improve relations with Russia and fully recognise state of Palestine.
Polling: Support rising gradually, around 8 per cent.