The purpose of this post is to answer some hints that my blog-friend Dick gives me:
[editing after writing the draft of this post: While i was writing this post, i realized that the subject is so big and articulated that i will never be able to finish in a reasonable amount of time, so i will split it in severan ones. This first is about the rules that drive the politics in Italy]
We recently had "Political" elections.
I'd like to make at first a digression to explain what it does mean "political" elections upon the electoral rules we have in Italy.
In Italy this type of elections are meant to renew the two Parliament chambers: the "Senato della Repubblica" and the "Camera dei Deputati". It is the most important type of elections in Italy, being that in our Republic, the State is leaded by the Parliament (and not, as it happens in USA, for example, by the President of the USA).
Unfortunately we have an electoral law open to the risk that, upon some conditions, it can give ingovernability to the Parliament (although few years ago it was changed in order to be safer than the previous one). I think i'll make a digression later about this.
Those unfortunate conditions just happened at this last elections.
I try hereby to explain better:
As i said, in Italy we vote every five years to elect the people that seat on the seats of the Parliament (315 senators and 630 deputies). Every seven years, the Parliament elects the "Presidente della Repubblica" (which usually is a super-partes Senator that ensures imparciality). The one currently in charge is Giorgio Napolitano. One of the main tasks of the Presidente della Repubblica is to nominate a "Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri" (the Prime Minister). Mario Monti was the last one.
The Prime Minister himself/herself nominates the "Ministri della Repubblica" (Ministers). The number and the tasks of this team ("Consiglio dei Ministri" - the Government) is variable upon the program that the Presidente del Consiglio intends to develop during his/her mandate. Usually it is a dozen to twenty people.
Although the Prime Minister is nominated by the Presidente della Repubblica, his charge is mainly based on the Parliament, because, since the Government's decisions are voted by the Parliament, the Government itself needs the explicit support of atleast the half of the Senators in the Senato and the Deputies in the Camera. This "explicit support" is named "Fiducia". After the nomination of the Prime Minister by the Presidente della Repubblica, the Prime Minister selects and nominates the Ministers to form the Government, and after that, the Parliament is called to a first Fiducia vote, in order to to check out that the Government has in fact the support of the half of the Parliament.
Italian Republic is based on a sharp division of the three powers: Legislative (run by the Parlamento), Executive (run by the Consiglio dei Ministri) and Judical (run by the Magistratura).
The Magistrature is directly leaded by the Presidente della Repubblica, the Parliament is leaded by the Presidente della Camera and the Presidente del Senato, the Consiglio dei Ministri is leaded by the Prime Minister.
Presidente della Repubblica, Presidente della Camera and Presidente del Senato are elected by the Parliament. The Prime Minister is nominated by the Presidente della Repubblica and is supported by the Parliament. As you see, all the Powers are based on the Parliament, which is elected by the citizens.
All the actions to run the Country, both for relationship with foreign countries and for internal policy are of course taken by the Government.
So, you can see, although the main "institutional" power is kept by the Presidente della Repubblica, which has also the task to prevent any interference among the Three Powers, the one leads the Country is the Prime Minister.
As i was telling before, in order to lead the country the Prime Minister and his Consiglio dei Ministri need the trust (Fiducia) of the Parliament. The ENTIRE Parliament: both the Camera dei Deputati and the Senato della Repubblica. Which means that a Government needs the support of the absolute majority in the Senato (50% +1 of the senators) and the absolute majority in the Camera (50%+1 of the deputies).
Being that in Italy we don't have, only 2 parties (such as it happens in America, omitting Nader), this means that if after the elections there is not a party/condition that obtains the absolute majority in both the chambers, the Prime Minister needs to ask for an agreement to other parties, untill the amount of senators and deputies is enough big. Of course such an agreement is possible only if there is an acceptable compromise within the program.
If such an agreement cannot be found the Government is not considered stable, although, theoretically, it can still lead. The problem is that in a Minority Government, when an action to be taken is needed to be supported by a vote of the Parliament, the result of that vote is not predictable, being that the votes against could be more than the votes for at any moment.
When an agreement on a single decision, cannot be found, the action cannot be taken, or the Prime Minister asks the Parlament for a Fiducia vote. If the absolute majority of the parliaments is OK, the action can be taken anyway. If not, the government is dismissed. In this case the Presidente della Repubblica tries to find another Prime Minister that form another Government which hopefully has the Trust of the Parliament. If such a Prime Minister cannot be found, also the Parliament is dismissed, and new elections must be performed. I believe that it is theoretically possible that only one chamber is dismissed, in which case the elections are performed only for that chamber. But this never happened in the history of Italian Republic, and i am not sure what kind of scenary this can drive to.
Of course the number of the senators and deputies is given by some rules in the electoral law, basing on the votes of the citizens (although i don't like, the number of the elected is not exactly proportional to the number of the electors that voted for them).
One could guess that the proportion of the number of elected Senators of a particular party within the Senato is similar to the proportion of the number of elected Deputies of that party within the Camera. In fact, when an elector goes to vote, he is given two voting papers (one for each chamber): we can presume that he will vote on both for the same party.
Unfortunately it's not that simple.
The Camera's Deputies are elected by a proportional law on the whole national territory, with a "sbarramento" and a "premio di maggioranza".
The "sbarramento" is a mechanism intended to eliminate any too small party. If a party or a coaliotion of parties doesn't reach a minimum percentage of votes, it doesn't gain any deputy at all. That party is excluded from the Camera.
The party or coalition that makes the best will add extra deputies enough to reach a minimum of 340 (which is the absolute majority of the Camera.
For the Senate the mechanism is very similar, but it is evaluated on a regional base.
Italian territory is divided in 20 regions. Each region assigns a number of senators proportional to the amounto of inhabitants of that region (for example Lombardy is worth 47 senators, being that it is has a lot of inhabitants, while Valle d'Aosta only 1 Senator since not a big lot of people live in that mountainous region). The Senators elected on each region compose the entire Senate.
Therefore, being that the mechanism to elect the Senate is different from the one to elect the Camera, the power of a particular party within one of the two chambers could be different from the power of that party within the other chamber.
Moreover the electors of the Camera are all the citizens over 18 years old, while the electors of the Senate are all the citizens over 25 years old. Being that a portion of the electors vote for the Camera but not for the Senate, the distribution of the votes can be even more different.
At the end one party/coalition will have the relative majority of votes in the Camera, which fact will give that party/coalition the absolute majority of deputies. But it is not ensured that the same party/coalition, although it had the majority of the votes in the Senate, it doesn't obtain the absolute majority of the Senators number.
And this is exactly what happened in these last elections.
...but this will be delayed to the next episode...