October 30, 2017
Italy's electoral reform seems to backfire already
It has been our experience of Italian politics that gerrymandering has never really worked for the party seeking an advantage over the others. The reason is that the system is too dynamic. Italy's latest electoral reform was intended as a stitch-up by the two largest parties, to keep the Five Star Movement at bay. But the latest polls in Corriere della Sera suggest that this strategy may be backfiring. The real loser from this reform, apart from some small parties, is the Partito Democratico itself.
The latest polls has Five Star in the lead with 27.5%, followed by the PD with 25.5%, Forza Italia with 16.1%, and the Lega with 15.2%. Both Forza Italia and the Lega have seen a rise in support at the expense of the PD, which has lost five percentage points since May.
The distribution of seats in the chamber of deputies suggests that a hung parliament is the most likely outcome. The following chart takes a bit getting used to, but is quite informative. The inner semi-circle gives the total of seats for the left, Five Star and the alliance of the right. 309 seats are needed for a majority. The right is closest to the target. Since the last poll two weeks ago, their projected number of seats has increased by 10. But they are still 60 seats short:
Even a coalition of PD and Forza Italia would be short of a majority since the Lega and the fascist Fratelli d'Italia would be unlikely to join it. It is hard to do the numbers for the grand coalition. One could add the numbers for the PD and the moderate centre right party of foreign minister Angelino Alfano, who is aligned with Matteo Renzi's PD. That would give 162 for the centre left. But the centre-right would split, with Forza Italia accounting for 63 seats plus a share of the 109 seats elected on the basis of the first-past-the-post system. Almost half of them would be Lega MPs, so that would have maybe 60 seats to the total. Add those together, and you are still short of a majority.
One further note: Five Star has 28.8% of the seats in this projection, with a voting share of 27.5%. So if the idea was to reduce Five Star, then this strategy is clearly not working. On the basis of this poll, the most likely outcome of this standoff would be a minority government - presumably of the centre-right/far-right because the left is simply too weak, and too divided, to be able to govern.