A woman casts her vote in a polling station in Rome in Italy's 2013 election.
Italy may have to vote again soon after an election Monday failed to produce a clear majority. Exit polls and early voting tallies indicated a victory for the center-left coalition, possibly in an alliance with outgoing prime minister Mario Monti’s party, but early official results show that there is no clear winner.
The center-left coalition has a sizable nationwide lead over Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right, but because Senate seats are assigned on a regional basis, that lead does not translate to a majority in the Senate. That would mean legislative gridlock and the likely need for new elections, since both chambers of Italy’s parliament have equal say in the legislative process (much like the House and Senate do in the U.S. political system – but without a president wielding executive power.)
According to data from Italy’s Ministry of the Interior, with 7,807 voting stations reporting out of 61,446, Pier Luigi Bersani’s center-left has 33.8 per cent of the vote; comedian Beppe Grillo’s anti-euro Five Star Movement, which advocated Italy’s exit from the common currency, has 25.8 per cent and would be the single largest party in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy. Berlusconi’s center-right People of Freedom coalition has 24.6 per cent and Mario Monti’s Scelta Civica (Civic Choice) party 10.2 per cent.
In the Senate, with 25,888 voting stations reporting out of 60,431, Bersani has 33.1 per cent; Berlusconi 28.9; Grillo 24 per cent; and Monti 9.2.
Italian electoral law gives extra seats in the House and Senate to the party or coalition that wins a plurality. The Democratic Party and its left-wing ally SEL would therefore have a guaranteed 340 seats in the House (the majority is 315), enough to govern comfortably for the next five years.
But in the Senate things would be different. According to a projection by Roberto D’Alimonte, a political science professor at LUISS University in Rome, Berlusconi’s coalition would have 129 seats in the Senate versus 112 for the center-left; 53 for the Five Star Movement, and 19 for Mario Monti’s party. No party or likely coalition would attain the 158 seats needed for a majority.
The reason behind Berlusconi’s number of seats in the Senate is his coalition winning a plurality in several key regions, including Sicily and Lombardy, which elect a relatively large number of senators due to their large populations.
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