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. Leggi tutto “The Italian Constitutional Referendum”

The Five Star Movement: purely a matter of protest?

article on PARTY POLITICS (with D. Tuorto)

The success of the Italian party Five Star Movement (M5S) has been broadly attributed to its ability to occupy the space of radical protest against ‘‘old politics’’. Due to the party’s criticism, its charismatic leadership, and its aggressive electoral campaigns, the M5S has been labeled as a populist. The unexpected result of 2013 election raises crucial theoretical questions: To what extent does the M5S electorate reflect the characteristics of a protest vote? To what extent was it also a vote driven by values, by individual evaluations on a specific political issue?


The first part of the article aims to investigate the extent of negative political feelings among M5S’ voters. To disentangle the meaning and impact of protest, we distinguish two dimensions: the ‘‘system discontent’’ and the ‘‘e´lite discontent,’’ referring to both general and focalized images, sentiments toward and the representation of political institutions, voter power, and government performances. In the second part, we bring to the analysis a further explanation based on the theory of issue voting. The goal is to measure whether voters have chosen M5S purely because of their political resentment or also given that they shared a similar position on a number of crucial policies emphasized in the electoral campaign (view the full paper).

The Presidentialization of Political Parties on LSE blog

Edited by Gianluca Passarelli, new collection The Presidentialization of Political Parties: Organizations, Institutions and Leaders, explores why the level of party presidentialisation varies between countries, arguing that this is linked to both constitutional design and the genetic features of political parties. Although he finds that some of the country case studies provide stronger evidence for the book’s central argument than others, Raul Aldaz appraises this book as a valuable contribution to the field that will be of particular use to scholars of comparative politics.

The headlines on US politics, currently covering caucus elections, are filled with names – Clinton, Cruz, Rubio, Sanders, Trump – and their personal positions on a handful of policy issues, but they direct less attention to their parties or the ideological standpoints that Democrats and Republicans (should?) convey. Is modern politics therefore becoming a more person-centred phenomenon rather than party- or ideology-focused? And if so, why?

Presidential Podium

The increasing importance given to specific politicians and/or presidential candidates is part of a broader trend that goes well beyond the US: what we might term ‘the presidentialization of politics’. Part of this phenomenon is ‘the presidentialization of political parties’, which refers to the increasing influence that presidents have on the behaviour and organisation of their parties. This new book, edited by Gianluca Passarelli, consists of a collection of country cases that provide an in-depth analysis of the extent of this presidentialisation of political parties and two possible explanations for its occurrence. Leggi tutto “The Presidentialization of Political Parties on LSE blog”

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).

A cosa servono le elezioni?

commento al volume di Van Reybrouck 

Il titolo è fuorviante, Contro le elezioni. Il sottotitolo è errato, Perché votare non è più democratico. Il volume non è un pamphlet “contro le elezioni”, perché non è la tesi sostenuta da Van Reybrouck (autore sempre da Feltrinelli di Congo). Il quale non lo fa né dal punto di vista politico e teorico né sul piano empirico. L’argomento centrale è che esista uno scollamento crescente tra i cittadini/elettori e la democrazia.

L’asse portante del volume è un malcelato attacco alla Democrazia. Nulla di innovativo quanto a critiche al regime anelato da milioni di esseri umani per decenni, o addirittura a volte secoli. Questo punto rappresenta al contempo un chiaro elemento di debolezza dell’argomentazione, stante la longeva critica democratica cui il testo non aggiunge spunti, e il filone promettente di argomentazione, almeno potenziale. Manca l’affondo, la critica argomentata e “definitiva” al regime democratico. Di cui evidentemente le elezioni non sono che solo un aspetto, sebbene cruciale.

Inoltre sostenere che “votare non è più democratico” manifesta una distorsione analitica e concettuale, tanto nel merito quanto in prospettiva storica. I sistemi elettorali sono costruzioni umane di impianto politico-giuridico e come tali passibili di critiche e migliorie. La “bontà” di un sistema elettorale dipende dall’obiettivo che il legislatore si pone. Non ne esistono di “migliori” o di “peggiori” in assoluto, ma tali caratteristiche sono da considerare in relazione agli scopi.


Leggi tutto “A cosa servono le elezioni?”