Election Resources on the Internet:
Elections to the Italian Parliament - The Chamber of Deputies (1994-2001)
by Manuel Álvarez-Rivera

Important Notice: New Electoral Systems for the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies

In December 2005, Italy adopted new proportional representation electoral systems for elections to the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. This page describes the system previously used for elections to the Chamber of Deputies.

An overview of the new Chamber electoral system is presented here.


The Italian Chamber of Deputies is composed of 630 members. A total of 475 seats are filled in single-member constituencies or colleges (collegi); the remaining 155 seats are distributed by proportional representation (PR). Beginning with the next parliamentary election, due in 2006, Italian citizens residing abroad will elect twelve deputies, and the number of proportional mandates will decrease to 143. Chamber seats are apportioned among twenty-seven electoral districts (circoscrizioni elettorali) according to their population. Generally speaking, these districts follow regional boundaries; however, some of the larger regions are split in two districts (Piemonte, Veneto, Lazio, Campania, Sicilia) or three (Lombardia). Approximately three-quarters of the deputies in each district are elected in single-member colleges; PR is used to choose the remaining one-quarter, except in Valle d'Aosta, which elects one deputy in a single-member constituency.

For the 2001 Chamber election, the distribution of seats by electoral districts was as follows:

   District       College
Seats
      PR
Seats
      Total
Seats
  
   1    Piemonte 1       19       6       25   
   2    Piemonte 2       17       6       23   
   3    Lombardia 1       31       10       41   
   4    Lombardia 2       32       10       42   
   5    Lombardia 3       11       4       15   
   6    Trentino Alto Adige       8       2       10   
   7    Veneto 1       22       7       29   
   8    Veneto 2       15       5       20   
   9    Friuli Venezia Giulia       10       3       13   
   10    Liguria       14       5       19   
   11    Emilia Romagna       32       11       43   
   12    Toscana       29       10       39   
   13    Umbria       7       2       9   
   14    Marche       12       4       16   
   15    Lazio 1       32       10       42   
   16    Lazio 2       11       4       15   
   17    Abruzzi       11       3       14   
   18    Molise       3       1       4   
   19    Campania 1       25       8       33   
   20    Campania 2       22       7       29   
   21    Puglia       34       11       45   
   22    Basilicata       5       2       7   
   23    Calabria       17       6       23   
   24    Sicilia 1       20       7       27   
   25    Sicilia 2       21       7       28   
   26    Sardegna       14       4       18   
   27    Valle d'Aosta       1       -       1   
         Total       475       155       630   

Chamber single-member colleges are filled by the plurality or first-past-the-post method, under which the candidate obtaining the largest number of votes in each college is elected. College candidates must be affiliated to at least one party (or party coalition) list presented at the district level for the distribution of proportional seats. Each elector casts two votes in Chamber elections: one for a college candidate, and a second vote for a party list. The votes are cast on separate ballots. Party lists are closed, so electors may not choose individual candidates in or alter the order of such lists.

Since 1993, proportional seats are initially allocated at the national level among party lists that have obtained at least four percent of the valid vote; the apportionment is carried out by means of the largest remainder method of PR. These seats are subsequently distributed at the district level following a complex mathematical procedure, designed to insure that seats are filled in all twenty-six multi-member districts, without changing the nationwide distribution of proportional seats.

Proportional seats are distributed according to the national electoral total (cifra elettorale nazionale) obtained by each qualifying party list, which equals the number of votes obtained by the list on a nationwide basis, minus part of the votes obtained by each of the party's candidates elected in a single-member college. Usually, this subtraction - scorporo in Italian - equals the number of votes obtained by the second-placed college candidate, plus one. However, the subtraction may not be less than twenty-five percent of the valid constituency vote, unless the winning college candidate has obtained a smaller amount, in whose case the scorporo equals the number of votes obtained by the elected candidate. In the event a winning constituency candidate is supported by more than one party list, the subtraction is deducted in proportion to the number of votes obtained by each affiliated list.

However, it should be pointed out that the Italian electoral law does not require that single-member college candidates be affiliated to their respective party lists. As such, a party could have its candidates linked instead to a "decoy" list (lista civetta), a non-existent party list with no chance of reaching the four percent threshold, presented solely to accumulate the votes deducted by scorporo. In this manner, the real party list would suffer no deduction of proportional votes, thus allowing the party to increase its share of list seats. This scheme was extensively used by Italy's two major electoral cartels in the 2001 Chamber election.

The proportional representation procedures introduced in 1993 differ significantly from the electoral system used from 1948 to 1992, under which members of the Chamber of Deputies were elected by a two-tier PR system in multi-member electoral districts, formed by groups of provinces - with the exception of Valle d'Aosta, represented in the Chamber by one member elected by simple majority. District seats were apportioned by dividing the number of votes obtained by each list by the Imperiali quota, calculated by dividing the total number of valid votes cast in the district by the number of deputies to be elected, plus two. Any unallocated seats and unused party list votes at the district level were then collected on a national pool, where the seats were proportionally distributed among party lists with no less than three-hundred thousand votes and at least one multi-member district seat, according to the overall number of unused votes accumulated by each qualifying party list. National pool seats won by a party were then allocated among its district lists. Party lists were open, and voters could cast preferential votes for up to three candidates until 1991, and for a single candidate in 1992.

To illustrate the functioning of the reformed electoral system, the results of the May, 2001 Chamber election in the entire country and the tenth electoral district, formed by the Liguria region (which extends over the Italian Riviera and surrounding areas), are presented here in detail. In the election, the tenth district had fourteen college seats and five proportional seats, for a total of nineteen seats. Five groups contested the single-member colleges in the district, namely L'Ulivo (The Olive Tree); the Casa delle Libertà (House of Freedoms); the Lista Di Pietro (Di Pietro List); Democrazia Europea (European Democracy); and the Pannella-Bonino List. At the same time, the following lists contested the proportional seats in the district:

  • Democratici di Sinistra (Democrats of the Left)
  • La Margherita (The Daisy)
  • Il Girasole (The Sunflower)
  • Comunisti Italiani (Italian Communists)
  • Rifondazione Comunista (Communist Refoundation)
  • Lista Di Pietro
  • Democrazia Europea
  • Pannella-Bonino
  • Forza Italia (Go Italy!)
  • Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance)
  • CCD-CDU (Christian Democratic Center-United Christian Democrats)
  • Lega Nord (Northern League)
  • Nuovo PSI (New Italian Socialist Party)
  • Paese Nuovo (New Country)
  • Abolizione Scorporo (Abolition of Subtraction)

The Olive Tree coalition was formed by the Democrats of the Left, the Daisy, the Sunflower, and the Italian Communists, while the House of Freedoms included Go Italy!, the National Alliance, the CCD-CDU, the Northern League and the New Italian Socialist Party. La Margherita was an alliance of the Partito Popolare Italiano (PPI; Italian Popular Party), the Democratici (Democrats), Rinnovamento Italiano - Lista Dini (Italian Renewal - Dini List), and the Unione Democratici per l'Europa (Democrats' Union for Europe); Il Girasole was a joint list formed by the Italian Democratic Socialists and the Federation of Greens. Finally, Paese Nuovo and Abolizione Scorporo were decoy lists (liste civetta) set up by the Olive Tree and the House of Freedoms, respectively, to circumvent the application of scorporo.

The list affiliations of L'Ulivo and Casa delle Libertà college candidates in the Liguria electoral district were as follows:

   College       L'Ulivo       Casa delle
Libertà
  
   1       La Margherita       Abolizione Scorporo   
   2       Democratici di Sinistra       Forza Italia   
   3       Democratici di Sinistra       Forza Italia   
   4       Paese Nuovo       Abolizione Scorporo   
   5       Paese Nuovo       Abolizione Scorporo   
   6       Il Girasole       Abolizione Scorporo   
   7       Paese Nuovo       Abolizione Scorporo   
   8       Paese Nuovo       Abolizione Scorporo   
   9       Paese Nuovo       Abolizione Scorporo   
   10       Democratici di Sinistra       Abolizione Scorporo   
   11       La Margherita       Abolizione Scorporo   
   12       La Margherita       Abolizione Scorporo   
   13       Comunisti Italiani       Abolizione Scorporo   
   14       Paese Nuovo       Abolizione Scorporo   

College candidates presented by the Lista di Pietro, Democrazia Europea and the Pannella-Bonino List were linked to their respective party lists.

The first step was the allocation of Liguria's fourteen single-member college seats, detailed below:

   College       L'Ulivo       Casa delle
Libertà
      Lista
Di Pietro
      Democrazia
Europea
      Pannella-
Bonino
  
        
     
     
     
     
  
         Votes       %       Votes       %       Votes       %       Votes       %       Votes       %   
   1       27,147       35.5       45,503       59.5       3,807       5.0       -       -       -       -   
   2       28,466       37.0       43,911       57.1       4,527       5.9       -       -       -       -   
   3       36,037       43.1       43,321       51.8       4,270       5.1       -       -       -       -   
   4       46,475       53.6       33,848       39.0       3,999       4.6       2,388       2.8       -       -   
   5       48,842       62.1       29,767       37.9       -       -       -       -       -       -   
   6       46,882       61.8       23,102       30.4       3,967       5.2       1,958       2.6       -       -   
   7       51,871       64.1       24,863       30.7       4,203       5.2       -       -       -       -   
   8       38,063       46.9       36,920       45.5       3,196       4.0       -       -       2,933       3.6   
   9       42,900       61.1       27,271       38.9       -       -       -       -       -       -   
   10       37,093       44.6       40,347       48.5       2,944       3.6       -       -       2,739       3.3   
   11       40,141       49.4       37,410       46.0       -       -       3,741       4.6       -       -   
   12       30,644       41.9       34,673       47.4       2,899       4.0       2,818       3.9       2,049       2.8   
   13       44,654       56.0       32,504       40.7       -       -       2,600       3.3       -       -   
   14       37,695       50.8       30,390       40.9       2,311       3.1       1,744       2.4       2,082       2.8   
   Total       556,910       50.5       483,830       43.9       36,123       3.3       15,249       1.4       9,803       0.9   
   Seats       9       64.3       5       35.7       0       0.0       0       0.0       0       0.0   

College seats were awarded to the group obtaining the largest number of votes in each constituency (shown in bold italic). As indicated, the Olive Tree coalition won in nine colleges, while the House of Freedoms cartel won in five; the remaining groups won no constituency seats.

The next step was the calculation of each list's district electoral total (cifra elettorale circoscrizionale). In Liguria, all the winning college candidates - as well as all the second-place candidates - received at least twenty-five percent of the vote in their respective constituencies: as such, in each constituency an amount equal to the votes obtained by second-place candidates plus one was deducted from the vote total obtained by the list to which the winning college candidate was affiliated. The deductions in each college - the scorporo or subtraction - were as follows:

   College       Scorporo       Winner's
Affiliated List
  
   1       27,148       Abolizione Scorporo   
   2       28,467       Forza Italia   
   3       36,038       Forza Italia   
   4       33,849       Paese Nuovo   
   5       29,768       Paese Nuovo   
   6       23,103       Il Girasole   
   7       24,864       Paese Nuovo   
   8       36,921       Paese Nuovo   
   9       27,272       Paese Nuovo   
   10       37,094       Abolizione Scorporo   
   11       37,411       La Margherita   
   12       30,645       Abolizione Scorporo   
   13       32,505       Comunisti Italiani   
   14       30,391       Paese Nuovo   

The district-level aggregation of deductions produced the following results in Liguria:

   List       Valid
Votes
      %       Scorporo       Electoral
Total
  
   Democratici di Sinistra       264,270       23.9               264,270   
   La Margherita       132,309       12.0       37,411       94,898   
   Il Girasole       22,101       2.0       23,103       -1,002   
   Comunisti Italiani       26,293       2.4       32,505       -6,212   
   Rifondazione Comunista       65,499       5.9               65,499   
   Lista Di Pietro       39,922       3.6               39,922   
   Democrazia Europea       20,130       1.8               20,130   
   Pannella-Bonino       30,804       2.8               30,804   
   Forza Italia       323,912       29.3       64,505       259,407   
   Alleanza Nazionale       103,224       9.3               103,224   
   CCD-CDU       23,477       2.1               23,477   
   Lega Nord       43,276       3.9               43,276   
   Nuovo PSI       8,969       0.8               8,969   
   Paese Nuovo       1,364       0.1       183,065       -181,701   
   Abolizione Scorporo       773       0.1       94,887       -94,114   

The described procedure was repeated in each multi-member electoral district. The results from all districts were then aggregated at the national level, in order to proceed with the distribution of Chamber proportional seats.

The nationwide results of the proportional vote in the 2001 Chamber election were as follows:

   List       Valid
Votes
      %       Scorporo       Electoral
Total
  
   Democratici di Sinistra       6,151,154       16.6       877,669       5,273,485   
   La Margherita       5,391,827       14.5       754,371       4,637,456   
   Il Girasole       805,340       2.2                   
   Comunisti Italiani       620,859       1.7                   
   Südtiroler Volkspartei       200,059       0.5                   
   Rifondazione Comunista       1,868,659       5.0               1,868,659   
   Lista Di Pietro       1,443,725       3.9                   
   Democrazia Europea       888,249       2.4                   
   Pannella-Bonino       832,213       2.2                   
   Forza Italia       10,923,431       29.4       327,348       10,596,083   
   Alleanza Nazionale       4,463,205       12.0       335,449       4,127,756   
   CCD-CDU       1,194,040       3.2                   
   Lega Nord       1,464,301       3.9                   
   Nuovo PSI       353,269       1.0                   
   Fiamma Tricolore       143,963       0.4                   
   Paese Nuovo       34,193       0.1                   
   Abolizione Scorporo       26,917       0.1                   
   Others       317,372       0.9                   
   Total       37,122,776       100.0               26,503,439   

Five lists, namely the Democratici di Sinistra, La Margherita, Rifondazione Comunista, Forza Italia and Alleanza Nazionale received at least four percent of all valid proportional votes cast, or 1,484,911 votes, and were thus entitled to participate in the proportional distribution of seats at the national level. None of the remaining lists that participated in the election reached the four percent threshold; therefore, these were excluded from the allocation of proportional seats.

In order to distribute the proportional seats, the sum of the electoral totals obtained by the five qualifying lists was divided by the number of seats to be allocated, to obtain the national electoral quota or quoziente elettorale nazionale:

   26,503,439 

 155 
= 170,989

Each qualifying list was then assigned an initial number of seats, equal to the integer division of its national electoral total by the national electoral quota, as shown below:

 
Democratici di Sinistra:    5,273,485 

 170,989 
= 30;   Remainder: 143,815
 
La Margherita:    4,637,456 

 170,989 
= 27;   Remainder: 20,753
 
Rifondazione Comunista:    1,868,659 

 170,989 
= 10;   Remainder: 158,769
 
Forza Italia:    10,596,083 

 170,989 
= 61;   Remainder: 165,754
 
Alleanza Nazionale:    4,127,756 

 170,989 
= 24;   Remainder: 24,020

At this point, the allocation of Chamber proportional seats stood as follows:

   List    Seats   
   Democratici di Sinistra    30   
   La Margherita    27   
   Rifondazione Comunista    10   
   Forza Italia    61   
   Alleanza Nazionale    24   
   Total    152   

However, three of the 155 seats remained to be allocated. The largest remainders were then determined, by sorting them in descending order, as shown below:

   List    Remainder   
   Forza Italia    165,754   
   Rifondazione Comunista    158,769   
   Democratici di Sinistra    143,815   
   Alleanza Nazionale    24,020   
   La Margherita    20,753   

Since Forza Italia, Rifondazione Comunista and the Democratici di Sinistra had the three largest remainders, one seat was allocated to each of these lists. This operation completed the allocation of seats at the national level in the following manner:

   List    Seats   
   Democratici di Sinistra    31   
   La Margherita    27   
   Rifondazione Comunista    11   
   Forza Italia    62   
   Alleanza Nazionale    24   
   Total    155   

The proportional mandates were then allocated at the district level, following a three-step process. In the first step, the sum of the electoral totals obtained by the five qualifying lists in a given district was divided by the number of district seats to be allocated, to obtain the district quota or quoziente circoscrizionale).

In the Liguria district, the quota was computed as follows:

   787,298 

 5 
= 157,459

Then, for each qualifying list, its district electoral total was divided by the district quota, as shown below:

 
Democratici di Sinistra:    264,270 

 157,459 
= 1.678341664;   Remainder: 106,811
 
La Margherita:    94,898 

 157,459 
= 0.602683873;   Remainder: 94,898
 
Rifondazione Comunista:    65,499 

 157,459 
= 0.415974952   Remainder: 65,499
 
Forza Italia:    259,407 

 157,459 
= 1.647457433;   Remainder: 101,948
 
Alleanza Nazionale:    103,224 

 157,459 
= 0.655561130;   Remainder: 103,224

Each qualifying list was then assigned an initial number of district seats, equal to the integer division of its district electoral total by the district quota:

   List    Seats   
   Democratici di Sinistra    1   
   La Margherita    0   
   Rifondazione Comunista    0   
   Forza Italia    1   
   Alleanza Nazionale    0   
   Total    2   

The allocation of seats by whole quotas was repeated in each multi-member electoral district, with the following results:

   List    Seats   
     
  
      Allocated    Unallocated   
   Democratici di Sinistra    18    13   
   La Margherita    16    11   
   Rifondazione Comunista    0    11   
   Forza Italia    50    12   
   Alleanza Nazionale    11    13   
   Total    95    60   

The second step was to distribute the sixty unallocated seats according to the largest quota fractions in each electoral district, beginning with the least populated district. The process was continued sequentially in the remaining districts, according to their increasing population rank. Any list that reached its nationwide seat allocation at a given stage had its quota fractions disregarded for subsequent seat distributions, so that it would not be awarded further seats.

In the 2001 Chamber election, the distribution of unallocated seats by the largest quota fractions in Liguria came after seats had already been allocated in Molise, Basilicata, Umbria, Trentino Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Abruzzi, Lombardia 3, Lazio 2, Marche, and Sardegna. At this point, no list had reached its nationwide seat allocation, so all quota fractions were considered for the distribution of the three remaining seats in the district. The fractions were then sorted in descending order, as shown below:

   List    Fraction   
   Democratici di Sinistra    0.678341664   
   Alleanza Nazionale    0.655561130   
   Forza Italia    0.647457433   
   La Margherita    0.602683873   
   Rifondazione Comunista    0.415974952   

Since the Democratici di Sinistra, Alleanza Nazionale and Forza Italia had the three largest quota fractions, one seat was allocated to each of these lists. As a result, the allocation of district seats in Liguria stood as follows:

   List    Seats   
   Democratici di Sinistra    2   
   La Margherita    0   
   Rifondazione Comunista    0   
   Forza Italia    2   
   Alleanza Nazionale    1   
   Total    5   

The allocation of seats in each multi-member electoral district, first by whole quotas and then by the largest quota fractions, produced the following results:

   List    Seats   
     
  
      Allocated    Unallocated   
   Democratici di Sinistra    31    0   
   La Margherita    27    0   
   Rifondazione Comunista    8    3   
   Forza Italia    62    0   
   Alleanza Nazionale    24    0   
   Total    152    3   

The last step was to distribute three unallocated seats for Rifondazione Comunista, according to the largest remainders obtained by the list in each electoral district where it had not been allocated any seats, shown below in descending order:

   District       Remainder   
   19    Campania 1       92,035   
   10    Liguria       65,499   
   7    Veneto 1       63,622   
   5    Lombardia 3       58,706   
   2    Piemonte 2       58,131   
   23    Calabria       58,012   
   14    Marche       56,304   
   8    Veneto 2       55,725   
   24    Sicilia 1       49,297   
   26    Sardegna       47,699   
   17    Abruzzi       45,150   
   16    Lazio 2       44,695   
   13    Umbria       44,161   
   25    Sicilia 2       42,966   
   9    Friuli Venezia Giulia       36,502   
   6    Trentino Alto Adige       16,510   
   22    Basilicata       15,465   
   18    Molise       7,484   

Since Rifondazione Comunista had the three largest unused remainders in Campania 1, Liguria and Veneto 1, one seat was allocated to the list in each of these districts, which completed the distribution of Chamber proportional seats at the district level.

In Liguria, Chamber seats were distributed in the following manner:

   Group/List    Seats   
     
  
      Colleges    District    Total   
   L'Ulivo    9    2    11   
       Democratici di Sinistra          2         
       La Margherita          0         
       Il Girasole          0         
       Comunisti Italiani          0         
   Rifondazione Comunista          1    1   
   Casa delle Libertà    5    3    8   
       Forza Italia          2         
       Alleanza Nazionale          1         
       CCD-CDU          0         
       Lega Nord          0         
       Nuovo PSI          0         
   Total    14    6    20   

As a result, the district received an additional proportional seat. This was also the case in Campania 1 and Veneto 1, where Rifondazione Comunista was awarded seats according to its largest unused remainders. The additional seats in these districts came at the expense of the most populated electoral districts: Puglia and Emilia Romagna lost one and two proportional seats, respectively, in the allocation of seats by the highest quota fraction, due to the fact that all but one of the qualifying lists had already reached their respective nationwide seat totals in prior stages of the process.

Nationwide, the results of the May, 2001 Chamber election were as follows:

   Group/List    Single-Member Ballot    Proportional Ballot    Total
Seats
   %   
     
  
        
      Votes    %    Seats    %    Votes    %    Seats         
   Casa delle Libertà    16,915,513    45.4    282    59.4    18,398,246    49.6    86    368    58.4   
       Forza Italia                        10,923,431    29.4    62             
       Alleanza Nazionale                        4,463,205    12.0    24             
       CCD-CDU                        1,194,040    3.2    0             
       Lega Nord                        1,464,301    3.9    0             
       Nuovo PSI                        353,269    1.0    0             
   L'Ulivo    16,097,672    43.2    184    38.7    12,969,180    34.9    58    242    38.4   
       Democratici di Sinistra                        6,151,154    16.6    31             
       La Margherita                        5,391,827    14.5    27             
       Il Girasole                        805,340    2.2    0             
       Comunisti Italiani                        620,859    1.7    0             
   L'Ulivo-Südtiroler Volkspartei    364,291    1.0    8    1.7    200,059    0.5    0    8    1.3   
       L'Ulivo-Südtiroler Volkspartei    190,556    0.5    5    1.1                   5    0.8   
       Südtiroler Volkspartei    173,735    0.5    3    0.6    200,059    0.5    0    3    0.5   
   Rifondazione Comunista                        1,868,659    5.0    11    11    1.7   
   Vallèe d'Aoste    25,577    0.1    1    0.2                   1    0.2   
   Lista Di Pietro    1,487,287    4.0    0    0.0    1,443,725    3.9    0    0    0.0   
   Democrazia Europea    1,310,119    3.5    0    0.0    888,249    2.4    0    0    0.0   
   Pannella-Bonino    457,117    1.2    0    0.0    832,213    2.2    0    0    0.0   
   Fiamma Tricolore    121,527    0.3    0    0.0    143,963    0.4    0    0    0.0   

As in the Senate election, the single-member constituency system favored the House of Freedoms, which scored a decisive victory in the college races, despite its narrow constituency vote lead over the Olive Tree and its allies. However, the allocation of proportional seats also favored the House of Freedoms, whereas in the Senate election most proportional seats went to the Olive Tree. This difference resulted from the overwhelming lead secured by the House of Freedoms in the Chamber proportional vote, combined with the fact that the Democratici di Sinistra and La Margherita accumulated significantly larger deductions than Forza Italia or Alleanza Nazionale: although both the House of Freedoms and the Olive Tree had a large number of constituency candidates linked to decoy lists, the former had far more decoy list-affiliated college candidates (427) than the latter (235). As a result, the application of scorporo in the Chamber election actually worked in favor of the House of Freedoms, despite its large college seat lead.

Incidentally, the House of Freedoms decoy list scheme resulted in one unexpected complication: Forza Italia did not have enough candidates to fill all its proportional mandates. Consequently, a total of twelve list seats have remained vacant since the election was held.

Finally, it should be pointed out that while the four percent nationwide threshold reduced to five the number of lists which received proportional seats, the coalition deals within both the House of Freedoms and the Olive Tree allowed the smaller parties affiliated to these cartels to win Chamber seats in the single-member colleges - seats they would have had practically no chance of winning by themselves. In this manner, the smaller parties managed to get around the four percent threshold, securing parliamentary representation in rough proportion to their voting strength. In fact, despite the introduction of plurality voting in Italian parliamentary elections, the political party system remains as fragmented as ever.


Copyright © 2003-2006 Manuel Álvarez-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.
Last update: February 6, 2006.