Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tabulating the vote in Italy: Chaos

by Clifford F. Thies 

With all but the overseas vote now counted, its appears that the center-left bloc has indeed finished first nationwide, with about 29.5 percent of the vote, just barely ahead of the center-right bloc with 29.1 percent. 

Under the rules governing elections in Italy, the center-left bloc qualifies for bonus seats sufficient to have an outright majority in the lower house (or, Chamber of Deputies) in the Italian Parliament.

In the upper house, it appears that the center-right bloc has finished first in enough regions to have the largest number of seats in the upper house (or, Senate), but with less than a majority. Furthermore, the centrist bloc did so poorly that it does not have enough seats to enable either the center-right or the center-left bloc to form a majority in the Senate. To form a bicameral ruling coalition, the center-left bloc would have to accommodate either the center-right bloc or Beppe Grillo's populist Five Star Movement.

A more ridiculous result could hardly be imagined. The actual vote is outside the margin of error of the two exit polls released right after the close of voting, which exit polls both showed a 6 point plurality for the center-left. Silvio Berlusconi, commenting on the results of the election, says that the politicians should put their mind to moving forward without (immediately) calling a new election. 

Perhaps Berlusconi is thinking that a new election could be called after voters sour on the in-coming center-left government. As to the idea that the center-left would have a majority in the lower house because of the award of bonus seats, when it may have gotten less than 30 percent of the vote is an insult to democracy.

In tinkering with their voting system, the Italians have managed to graft the worst aspect of "first-past-the-gate" voting onto a proportional representation system with a low threshold. Because of the low threshold, there are many small parties. These small parties are supposedly encouraged to form themselves into blocs, in order to compete for the bonus seats, but this coalescing doesn't work so well. The result, this year, is four significant parties or blocs, and a winner with far less than a majority. 

A possibly sufficient solution for a "first-past-the-gate" voting system is run-off or "instant run-off" voting (instant run-off voting is sometimes called preference voting). With instant run-off voting, voters can indicate their first, second and possibly tertiary preferences. With instant run-off voting, if a voter's most preferred candidate finishes out of contention, the voter's second choice would count, or third choice if the voter's first and second most preferred candidates both finish out of contention. 

For one example, in 1992, when a large percentage of voters cast their ballots for Ross Perot, so that Bill Clinton was elected President with 43 percent of the vote, it is possible that George H.W. Bush could have been elected if Perot's supporters disproportionately favored Bush as their second choice. For another example, in 1980, when George W. Bush edged out Al Gore in Florida, if Ralph Nader's supporters disproportionately favored Gore as their second choice, Mr. Green would have been elected President.

Instant run-off is employed in the election of Australia's lower house, and works quite well allowing people to reveal their first preferences while also indicating their acceptable alternate choices. 

 Photos - Berlusconi center-right bloc candidates Graziana Capone and Nicolle Minetti.


Gary said...

We need to adopt the Italian system here.

If you look at the Wikipedia page on the election you see how free those elections are.

Both of the "major" parties of the left and right lost voters. Two brand new political parties appeared and the voters supported them in droves.

--- Five Star Movement with 8.5 million votes and 109 seats.

--- Civic Choice only founded in January, 2013 got 3.6 million votes and 47 seats.

The first past the post system allows the centralized and totally corrupt Dems and Repubs to tell the voters to go fuck themselves.

Gary said...

In my home state of California Romney got 37%.

Under the current gerrymandered system the GOP holds only 28% of the seats (15).

Under proportional the GOP would hold 20 seats at a 37% vote.

John Morris said...

I know the chance is remote, but the savvy opportunist Berlusconi may try to make a deal with 5 star by also supporting a referendum on staying in the EU.

So much of the 5 Star movement is based on never forming a coalition with the corrupt status quo. However, the EU vote is also a central focus.

M. Simon said...

I like our system. It forces the coalitions to be made before the election.

M. Simon said...

Let me add that the current "libertarians out of the party" Republicans don't make coalitions.

I will support any candidate - left or right - who promises to work to end prohibition.

"Modern Prohibition/The War on Drugs is the most destructive, dysfunctional & immoral domestic policy since slavery & Jim Crow."

Retired Police Detective Howard Wooldridge

M. Simon said...

link - 5 Star Movement - analysis


What is happening in Italy is revolutionary: it is the first time in world history that a revolutionary political force is born from the internet and goes straight to power.

Beppe Grillo is a comedian, he is an equivalent to George Carlin in the US, but there is where the analogy ends.

What this man has done, in the last 5 years is to use his blog (btw the most read blog on the planet) to build a community of volunteers and citizens that want to reform their country by entering personally the italian Congress and government.

Imagine an America where the citizens stops delegating power to the Obamas, the Bushes, the Clintons, and tell them all: "GO HOME!", peacefully, but please, go home. And then the citizens enter the institutions, instead of the politicians, and they take the power and start to change the laws and everything that does not work as it should, to serve finally the citizens, not the private interests of the big corporations or the Pentagon.

The reason why this political movement had so much success, drawing 800,000 people to the last meeting in Place San Giovanni in Rome (and 150,000 on Live streaming on YouTube), and many other thousands in each of the 77 meetings in various italian cities, it's because of the great communicator's abilities of Beppe Grillo.

That is why Occupy Wall Street and all the other movements don't stand a chance to change the world: because they do not have a great leader that can talk to the masses and convey efficiently the message.

So the lesson for all the various democratic and revolutionary movements out there, in America, or In Europe, what they have to learn from Beppe Grillo and his 5 Stars Movement, is to get a leader that can talk to the masses.

You could change America, if you had a guy like Beppe Grillo.