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Luca Lanzalaco

At the end of March 2013, Italy's Parliament undertook an intense round of activity that was aimed at reforming the electoral system and some important aspects of the Constitution, such as the form of the state and that of the government. During this reform process, both the president of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, and the prime minister, Enrico Letta, assumed a major role. This chapter analyzes the main characteristics of this policy cycle while examining the underlying elements of continuity and discontinuity with other reform efforts that have been undertaken over the past 30 years in Italy.

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Alessandro Chiaramonte

The Italian general elections held in February 2013 ended up in stalemate. The center-left coalition won the absolute majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies but not in the Senate, making it impossible to form any homogeneous governing majority. In the end, the only available opstion to support the new cabinet was a “grand coalition” of parties from different political sides. This chapter analyzes this destabilizing outcome, taking into account a number of factors: the success of a new anti-establishment party, the Five Star Movement, which has become the largest party in the country; the significant loss of votes by the center-left and especially by the center-right, compared to the previous elections of 2008; the peculiar nature and functioning of the electoral system; the extraordinary level of vote shifts; the “new” electoral geography; the crisis of the bipolar setting; and the transformation of the party system.

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Louise K. Davidson-Schmich

This article examines the candidates for the 2009 Bundestag election and asks three questions. First, did German political parties comply with their voluntarily-adopted gender quotas for their electoral lists—both in terms of the numbers of women nominated and their placement on the party list? Second, did parties without gender quotas place female candidates in promising list places? In other words, did quotas exert a “contagion effect“ and spur political groups without quotas to promote women's political careers? Third, what propensity did all parties have to nominate female candidates for direct mandate seats? Did the quotas used for the second vote have a spillover effect onto the first vote, improving women's odds of being nominated for constituency seats? I find that while the German parties generally complied with the gender quotas for their electoral lists, these quotas have had only limited contagion effects on other parties and on the plurality half of the ballot. Gender quotas in their current form have reached their limits in increasing women's representation to the Bundestag. To achieve gender parity, a change in candidate selection procedures, especially for direct mandates, would be required.

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Rinaldo Vignati

January

1 Fiat announces the 100 percent acquisition of Chrysler.

2 In a letter to the other political leaders, Matteo Renzi, the secretary of the Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party), presents three proposals for electoral reform: a revamped Mattarellum electoral system, the Spanish system, and Sindaco d’Italia (Mayor of Italy).

4 Offended by a remark made by Renzi, Stefano Fassina (PD) resigns as vice-minister of the economy.

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Filippo Andreatta and Elisabetta Brighi

Italian foreign policy has always been greatly influenced by the country’s

domestic politics. Certain important historical processes have

made it considerably difficult to separate the country’s external representation

from its domestic political equilibria. This state of affairs

has had a considerable bearing on Italy’s international standing,

which has been inhibited and therefore weakened as a result. The

country’s fragile national tradition, the legacy of a ruinous dictatorship,

and, in particular, the instability of the government, which

underlies the very nature of the proportional electoral system—

together with the existence of the largest communist party outside

the Soviet bloc—have hindered the formation of a bipartisan consensus

and of a foreign policy free from domestic pressures.

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Introduction

The Great Reform That Never Was

Alessandro Chiaramonte and Alex Wilson

In Italy, 2016 was meant to be the year of the “great reform,” a constitutional revision that would have concluded the never-ending transition from “First” to “Second” Republic, a long process involving several transformations in the electoral system and party system since the 1990s. It did not turn out this way. Instead, the Renzi-Boschi law for constitutional revision, which started its parliamentary procedure in April 2014 and saw its final reading in the Chamber of Deputies in April 2016, was eventually rejected by voters in a confirmative referendum held on 4 December.

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Irwin M. Wall

The French elections of 2012 resulted in an unprecedented and overwhelming victory by France's Socialist Party, which gained control of the presidency and an absolute majority in the National Assembly to go with the party's existing domination of most of France's regions and municipalities. But the Socialist Party remains a minority party in the French electoral body politic, its victory the result of a skewered two-ballot electoral system. The Socialist government, moreover, remains hampered in its action by its obligations toward the European Union and its participation in the zone of countries using the Euro as it attempts to deal with France's economic crisis. As a consequence of both of these phenomena the government may also be sitting atop a profound political crisis characterized by the alienation of a good part of the electorate from the political system.

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David P. Conradt

This article develops the thesis that the past quarter-century of electoral volatility in Germany reached a critical tipping point at the 2005 election. The two major parties of the Bonn Republic are now at their lowest combined share of the popular vote since the Federal Republic's founding in 1949. Electoral necessity and not, as in 1966, elite choice forced them into a grand coalition with little programmatic consensus. Their respective demographic cores-church-going Catholics for the CDU and unionized industrial workers for the SPD-have eroded as has the proportion of the electorate identifying with them. Institutional factors such as the electoral system have neither helped nor hindered these changes. The current grand coalition also faces a larger and more focused opposition than in 1966. The article concludes with some comparisons between the current German party system and its Italian counterpart of the late 1980s.

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Philip Daniels

The fifth elections to the European Parliament were held in Italy on

13 June 1999 against a background of domestic political turbulence.

The centre-left government of Massimo D’Alema, which had

taken office in October 1998, was inherently tenuous, based as it

was on a broad, multi-party majority including several MPs who

had been elected with the opposition centre-right coalition in the

1996 national elections. At the same time, the party system was

still highly fluid: new parties and political formations were entering

the electoral arena and party identities and electoral alliances

were characterised by instability. This turbulence in the party system

was manifest in the 1999 European elections in which twentysix

parties and movements presented lists, many contesting

European elections for the first time. In contrast to the majoritarian

mechanisms used in national parliamentary and local elections,

the proportional electoral system used for European elections, with

its relatively low threshold for representation, encourages the proliferation

of party lists and offers few incentives for the parties to

form electoral alliances.

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Gianfranco Baldini and Salvatore Vassallo

In the sessions of 10 and 12 November 1999, an ample majority of

both Chambers of Parliament approved the second deliberation of

the reform of articles 121, 122, 123 and 126 of the Constitution (491

votes in favour in the Chamber and 236 in the Senate). The principle

of direct election of regional presidents was thus introduced,

and the regions were given the power to determine their own form

of government. This is the initial result of the long effort to move

towards a federal constitution. Note too that the reform does not

modify the electoral system, whose first changes occurred in 1995.

Even so, it has set into motion processes that promise to influence

the stability of regional governments, the dynamics of political

competition, the structure of political careers, and the evolution of

relations between the center and the periphery.