The Italian Constitutional Referendum

The Italian Constitutional Referendum: Political and Institutional Consequences of a Striking “NO”

my article on Fruits&Votes blog
The electoral results of the constitutional referendum have led to the Prime Minister’s resignation. But let us consider what happened before.

48_referendumOn December 4th 2016, Italian voters expressed their vote on a referendum about constitutional reforms. This was the third referendum of its kind in Italy, with the other two held in 2001 and 2006. The two options presented to voters this time were related to the approval or rejection of the reform promoted by Matteo Renzi’s government and his centre-left parliamentary majority. However, several Democratic Party’s MPs decided not to support Renzi’s position, and used the ballot as a tool to oppose their leader due to different visions of the party, the government, policies, and the reform itself. The reform was approved earlier by an absolute majority in both houses of parliament, but the proposed changes required a two-thirds majority in parliament in order to be implemented without a referendum according to the Italian Constitution (art. 138.3). Since this threshold was not met in parliament, the referendum was called (by the Government) by collecting the required number of voter signatures, as stated by the art. 138.2, while the opponents to the reform were not able in getting the minimum number of required signatures (500.000).

The result of the referendum was both clear and decisive. Approximately 60% of voters cast a “NO” vote in opposition to the proposed reforms and only 40% voted in favor. Perhaps the most striking result was voter turnout. Nearly 70% of eligible voters cast a vote, a percentage that is similar to that reached in general elections in Italy (e.g., 75% in 2013). This figure also confirms that Italy remains a democracy with one of the highest electoral participation rates in the world. Despite this high turnout figure, one of the most notable features of the referendum is the persistent North-South divide in terms of turnout and the level of rejection of the reform. Rejection of the referendum was particularly high in southern regions, with peaks in Sicily, Sardinia, and Campania. Support for the referendum was limited and prevailed in only two regions (i.e., Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna), as well as in the province of Bolzano. Continua a leggere

Centre-left Prime Ministerial Primaries in Italy: the laboratory of the ‘open party’ model


The 2005 Prime Ministerial Primaries held by the coalition of the centre left were less important for their immediate outcome than they were important as crucial events for the institutionalization of primaries in the process of building the Democratic Party. Those held in 2012 were a second step in the same process. Since the two elections differed significantly and were both ‘exceptional’, we first propose a rational narrative of the political strategies leading up to each of them and of the political dynamics that followed. We also analyse indicators of the level of public interest in such a competition and the candidates’ abilities to mobilize support beyond the party’s traditional electoral constituency. Our central argument is that, since the centre-left Prime Ministerial Primaries achieved the strategic goals of some of their proponents, this particular type of primary should be less frequent in the future, at least on the left of the political spectrum. Even though they did so in very different ways, they both strengthened the project of creating the Democratic Party as an ‘open party’, whose leader is chosen by a broad base of electors in a primary-like competition and is the party’s natural candidate for the premiership (view the full paper).