Richard S. Katz, "Electoral Reform and the Transformation
of Party Politics in Italy," Party Politics , 2
(January, 1996), 31-53.
When Italians voted in April 1993 to abrogate several
clauses of the Senate electoral law, they were rejecting not
merely a narrow, albeit centrally important, institution of
the post-war Italian political system, but also the parties
and party system, and the patterns of political
relationships that had flourished under it. The immediate
results were a redrafting of the entire parliamentary
electoral system and an apparent realignment of forces in
the parliament elected 7 months after approval of the new
electoral law in August 1993. Among the obvious changes
between July 1993 and July 1994 were: -the presence for the
first time of an individual who had campaigned as the prime
ministerial candidate of an electoral alliance (actually two
partially overlapping, and in some respects mutually
hostile, alliances) and who claimed a personal mandate to
head the government; -the presence in the national
government of the neofascists (under their new name of
Alleanza Nazionale) for the first time; -the decimation of
the Christian Democratic Party (DC) under their new logo of
Partito Popolare Italiano (PPI) and the virtual
disappearance of their long-time coalition partners.
Especially following the rhetoric surrounding the electoral
reform movement, the magnitude of these changes led some
observers to talk about the inauguration of the 'Second
Republic', and to the belief (or hope)that the new electoral
system would fundamentally and permanently alter the nature
of Italian politics.
Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Geographic distribution of seats under the new
Table 2: Outcome of the 1994 parliamentary election.
Table 3: Parliamentary groups.
Table 4: Seats won and margin of first-past-the-post victory
by block and region.
Table 5: Vote share of winning candidate in single-member
Table 6: Representation of women.
Table 7: Women in the Chamber of Deputies.
Obviously, all this can be upset by the introduction of
further institutional reforms, by the uncovering of further
scandal, or by any of the other unpredictable events that
make politics so fascinating. For the moment,however, it
appears that the fundamental dynamics of Italian politics
will prove to have changed far less than advocates of
electoral reform hoped. More generally, this case suggests
that using institutional reforms to 'improve' a political
system may be far more easily said than done.