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Guido Legnante

With the double defeat of the center-right in Milan and Naples,

the local elections on 15–16 and 29–30 May 2011 marked a turning

point in Italian politics. In Milan, the “moral capital” and center

of Silvio Berlusconi’s empire, the outgoing mayor, Letizia Moratti,

was defeated by the center-left candidate Giuliano Pisapia in an outcome

that recalled, with the roles reversed, the historic defeat of the

center-left in Bologna in 1999. In Naples, the city that symbolizes the

difficulties faced by the center-left in government, the center-right

candidate Giovanni Lettieri was incapable of offering an alternative

and lost to the outsider, Luigi de Magistris, an ex-magistrate and a

member of Italia dei Valori (IdV, Italy of Values) who, in the first

round, had beaten Mario Morcone, the candidate representing the

Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party) and Sinistra Ecologia e

Libertà (SEL, Left Ecology and Freedom).

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Duncan McDonnell

Five years ago, Gianfranco Baldini and Guido Legnante began their

chapter in Italian Politics with the following summary of the reactions

to the 2002 local election results: “‘Alarm bell’ and ‘wake-up

call’ for the center-right …‘north wind’ and ‘settling of scores’ for the

center-left.”1 If we swap “center-right” and “center-left,” we could

easily be reading a synthesis of the responses to the 2007 local election

results, which saw the same municipalities and provinces voting

as in 2002. The similarity should not perhaps surprise us given that

such dramatic phrases seem to have become a staple of post-election

reactions in Italy, irrespective of which side wins. Thus, the victories

of the center-left candidates Riccardo Illy in Friuli-Venezia Giulia in

2003 and Filippo Penati in the province of Milan in 2004 and the

triumph of the center-left in the 2005 regional elections all sparked

this type of comment. In the Manichaean language of Italian political

competition, election results at every level are framed as being of

far-reaching significance and crucial for the legitimacy and stability

of the national government.

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David Nachmias, Maoz Rosenthal, and Hani Zubida

While national government elections are perceived as first order institutions that result in relatively high turnout rates, local elections are viewed as second-order institutions and are usually characterized by low turnout rates. We claim that this behavior is conditioned by the stakes that voters associate with elections as well as the voters' relative position in the socio-ethnic stratification structure. In this article we show that such conditions may yield an inversion in voters' perspectives. In other words, voters who are alienated from national government institutions and who are effectively mobilized by leaders of their socio-ethnic groups, which have high stakes in second-order institutions, tend to invert their preference with regard to the significance of elections. In such instances, national elections become second-order elections, and local elections become first-order elections. We use ballot-box level data from two national and two local elections in Israel to test this theory.

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Emanuele Massetti and Giulia Sandri

In 2013, Italian voters were called to the ballot boxes not only to renew Parliament but also to elect about 600 local councils. In several cases, serious political scandals had led to early elections. An analysis of electoral supply, campaigns, and results suggests the emergence of an ambivalent pattern: on the one hand, regional and local elections appear to be “second order” if we look at the level of turnout; on the other hand, they appear to be “first order” if we look at party/coalition preferences. Except in highly regionalized party systems (e.g., in Valle d'Aosta, Alto Adige/Südtirol, and Trentino), mainstream parties/coalitions performed better in regional/local elections than in the national election. The victory of the center-left coalition and the bipolar dynamic of competition appeared to be stronger at the sub-national level than at the national one.

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Duncan McDonnell

Above all else, 2006 was a year of elections. Or, to put it another way,

it was a year of intense democratic competition, participation, choice,

and outcomes. In fact, if we extend our gaze back further, we can say

that the regional election campaigns in early 2005 marked the beginning

of an 18-month crescendo of inter-coalitional (and often intracoalitional)

competition, participation (including center-left primaries

at both national and local levels), and choice, which reached its peak

with the knife-edge outcome of the April 2006 general election and

remained on that note for two months until the constitutional referendum

held on 25–26 June.

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Guido Legnante

On 25–26 May 2003, voters in Valle d’Aosta, 12 provinces (including

Rome), and 93 of the 600 local governments selected with a two-ballot

system (including 9 of the 103 provincial capitals) were called to

the polls. A fortnight later, regional elections were held in Friuli-

Venezia Giulia and 3 other provincial capitals. On 26 October, elections

were held in the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano.

The elections in the spring involved more than 12 million voters and

the following autumn, another 800,000 in Trentino-Alto Adige.

Although the number of voters was not insignificant, the 2003 elections

were nonetheless partial. The regions and autonomous provinces

called to the polls were exclusively in the North, while the local

and provincial polls were over-representative of the South (especially

Sicily) and under-representative of the “Red” areas of the country.

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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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Guido Legnante

In 2004, for the third successive year, the center-left opposition achieved

political success in the local elections, while the center-right government

suffered a clear defeat. The headlines of the main daily papers

were unequivocal: “Cities and Provinces, the Victory of the Center-

Left” (Corriere della Sera, 15 June); “Olive-Tree Coalition Victorious in

the Cities” (la Repubblica, 15 June); “The Center-Left Wins the Race in

Milan” (Corriere della Sera, 28 June); “The Polo Loses Even in Milan”

(la Repubblica, 28 June); “The Center-Right Hands Milan over to the

DS” (Il Giornale, 28 June). The 2002 and 2003 elections had already

registered clear victories for the center-left, not least because of the

symbolic importance of the successes of Riccardo Illy in Friuli-Venezia

Giulia and Enrico Gasbarra in the Rome provincial elections.

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Martin J. Bull

On 25–26 June 2006—the 60th anniversary of the Constituent Assembly’s

commencement of its work drafting the Italian Constitution (25

June 1946)—a referendum was held that called on the Italian people

to accept or reject a package of proposals that had been passed by the

center-right majority in November 2005 and that promised to rewrite

radically a substantial part of that document. Following the national

elections (April), local elections (May), and (parliamentary) election of

the president of the Republic (May), the referendum was, in many ways,

an electoral appointment that was one too many, as was evidenced in

a lackluster campaign by the parties. This is ironic because it could be

regarded as the most significant consultation of Italian voters for many

years. In any event, the voters delivered a decisive verdict, rejecting by

a large majority the proposals for constitutional revision.

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Mark Donovan

The European elections of 12 and 13 June 2004, and the simultaneous

partial local elections, were of great significance for Italy’s

national-level politics. For all that European and sub-national elections

are quite different from national ones, the European elections

were a nationwide test, of a sort, of the relative electoral appeal of the

government and opposition. More importantly, both levels of elections

had a powerful impact on the evolution of relations within the

House of Freedoms and between the opposition parties. Within the

government majority, the European elections saw Prime Minister Berlusconi’s

party, Forza Italia, weaken markedly, thus reinforcing the

aspirations of the prime minister’s most reluctant allies, the National

Alliance (AN) and the Union of Christian Democrats and Center Democrats

(UDC), to force a rewrite of the government program and, in

the most ambitious (and unstated) of hypotheses, to put an end to the

prime-ministerial aspect of Berlusconi’s government—perhaps even to

Berlusconi’s leadership itself.