On 29 November and 13 December 1998, elections were held for
the renewal of fifty-eight municipal councils in towns comprising
more than 15,000 inhabitants, as well as of four provincial administrations.
The feature that most caught the attention of politicians
and commentators, apart from changes in the political balance of
the coalitions, was the turnout for these elections. For the first time
in the electoral history of republican Italy, non-voters in the provincial
elections in some cases amounted to more than 50 percent of
the electorate. Largely blamed for this fall in electoral participation
was the frequency with which voters had been recently called to
the polling booths; and this accelerated the process of modifying
the law on the direct election of the mayor, it being proposed,
amongst other things, that all the administrative elections should
be combined into a single annual round of voting.