Election Resources on the Internet:
Elections to the Italian Parliament
by Manuel Álvarez-Rivera

Italy held a parliamentary election on February 24-25, 2013, following the resignation of Prime Minister Mario Monti on December 21, 2012. The Italian Parliament is currently elected under a proportional representation electoral system first used in the April 9-10, 2006 legislative election. This system replaced the electoral system adopted in 1993, under which three-quarters of the seats in both houses of Parliament - the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies - were filled by plurality voting in single member districts, while the remaining seats were distributed by proportional representation. The systems used in Senate and Chamber elections from 1994 to 2001 are described here, along with an overview of the proportional systems previously used in Italian legislative elections, and the new electoral systems introduced in December 2005.

National- and regional/district-level results are available here (and also in CSV format) for the following Senate and Chamber elections:

              Senate       Chamber of Deputies      
      February 24-25, 2013       Results    Election Map       Results    Election Maps      
      April 13-14, 2008       Results    Election Map       Results    Election Maps      
      April 9-10, 2006       Results    Election Map       Results    Election Maps      
      May 13, 2001       Results    Election Map       Results    Election Map      
      April 21, 1996       Results    Election Map       Results    Election Map      
      March 27, 1994       Results    Election Map       Results    Election Map      

The election statistics presented in this space come from official reports and data files issued by the Ministry of the Interior, which has detailed 2013 election results in Italian here.


General Aspects of the Electoral System

The Parliament of the Italian Republic consists of a lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, and an upper house, the Senate, both directly elected by universal adult suffrage and with equal powers. Both houses are elected for a five-year term of office. The voting age in Italy is eighteen years for Chamber elections, and twenty-five for Senate elections. Governments must enjoy majority support in both houses of Parliament in order to remain in office.

Historical Background

From 1948 to 1992, members of the Chamber of Deputies were elected by proportional representation (PR) in multi-member electoral districts, except in Valle d'Aosta, represented in the Chamber by one member elected by simple majority. Senate elections were held under a system in which three-quarters of the seats were filled in single-member constituencies, provided the winning candidate received at least sixty-five percent of the constituency vote; this requirement did not apply to the Valle d'Aosta Senate seat election, which was carried out by plurality voting. Unfilled Senate seats were then proportionally distributed in each region. In practice, very few candidates reached the sixty-five percent constituency threshold; consequently, PR was used to allocate nearly all Senate seats.

The Italian proportional representation system produced highly fragmented legislatures, and short-lived, unstable coalition governments: from 1945 to 1993 there were a total of fifty-two governments, which on average lasted less than a year in office. In fact, the April 5, 1992 legislative elections - the last held under the PR system until 2006 - produced a legislature in which no single party, or any combination of two parties could command an absolute majority of seats in either house of Parliament. This situation brought about a major governmental crisis, which culminated with the resignation of the President of the Republic, as it became increasingly difficult for him to find a candidate for the presidency of the Council of Ministers (as the post of prime minister is called in Italy) that could secure majority support in Parliament. Eventually, a new coalition government was formed, more than two months after the election had taken place, and after the election of a new president, which entailed further negotiations among the sixteen parties represented in the Italian legislature. However, the new government proved to be as shaky as its predecessors, and it lasted just ten months in office.

This situation stood in stark contrast with the outcome of the April 9, 1992 general election in the United Kingdom - held under the first-past-the-post system - in which the ruling Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister John Major, secured an absolute majority in the House of Commons on a plurality vote, formed a new government shortly after the election had taken place, and remained in office for the next five years, despite a seemingly endless succession of adverse developments.

The sharp contrast between the swiftness with which a new government was formed in Great Britain in 1992 and the prolonged Italian governmental crisis did not go unnoticed by public opinion in Italy. Supporters of electoral reform, led by Mario Segni - at the time a leading member of the now-defunct Christian Democratic Party (DC) - gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue, which was held on April 18, 1993. Seventy-seven percent of the Italian electorate took part in the vote, in which a proposal to repeal the sixty-five percent constituency threshold for Senate elections was overwhelmingly approved, with 82.7% of the valid vote.

While unfavorable comparisons with Britain may have played a part in the outcome of the referendum, a major factor in favor of change was an ongoing, large-scale investigation of corruption at all levels of government in Italy - the so-called Operation Clean Hands - whose findings completely discredited the ruling class, and led to the eventual demise of both the Christian Democratic Party (DC) - the country's dominant political force since the end of World War II - and its allies, most notably the Italian Socialist Party (PSI).

Although the referendum did not address the Chamber of Deputies electoral system - Italian referenda may only be called to repeal an existing law or a clause thereof - the outcome of the vote was interpreted as a call for sweeping changes in the electoral laws, in answer to which a new electoral system was adopted by Parliament in August 1993. This system provided for the election by plurality voting in single-member constituencies of seventy-five percent of the seats in both the Senate and the Chamber. The remaining twenty-five percent of the seats in each house would be filled by proportional representation, in order to compensate parties that won few or no constituency seats. However, the proportional representation system adopted for the election of one-quarter of the Chamber of Deputies was very different from the mechanism used to allocate proportional seats in the Senate, which was retained in the reformed electoral law.

Elections to the Senate (1994-2001)

Elections to the Chamber of Deputies (1994-2001)

The Political Parties

The 1992-93 corruption scandals, known as tangentopoli ("bribesville"), and the new electoral rules brought about a major realignment in the post-World War II Italian party system: the extent of change was of such magnitude that some historians refer to the post-1993 state of affairs in Italy as the "Second Republic", distinct from the 1946-93 "First Republic".

Under the so-called "First Republic", Italian governments had been coalitions of the Christian Democrats and one or more of the smaller centrist or left-of-center parties - including the Italian Socialist Party from 1963 onwards - or single-party Christian Democratic minority governments. Unlike in other European nations, there was no alternation in power between right and left: instead, all governments were essentially centrist (or center-left) in orientation. This unusual situation resulted from the presence of a very strong Italian Communist Party (PCI), which had been the second largest political force in the country since 1948. For a long time, the DC and its allies sought to keep the PCI out of power because it was regarded as an "anti-system" party, committed to the destruction (or at least a radical alteration) of the existing social and political order. The PCI's attempts to portray a more moderate image were met with skepticism and suspicion about its real goals.

However, as Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the PCI transformed itself into the non-Communist Partito Democratico della Sinistra (PDS; Party of the Democratic Left) in 1991, but this change of name and orientation was the last straw for hard-line Communists, who broke away to establish the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista (PRC; Communist Refoundation Party).

The PCI was not the only "anti-system" party, as there were several minor political movements to its left, and most importantly, a major neo-fascist party on the far right, the Italian Social Movement-National Right (MSI-DN), which had absorbed the Monarchists in 1972. Like the PCI, the MSI had been regarded as a political pariah, although much more so than the Communists, partly because it never had an electoral following as large as the former, but largely because of the historical dimension of its extremist ideological orientation, namely the 1922-43 period of Fascist rule in Italy under the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini.

As a result of the ongoing corruption probes, public opinion quickly turned against the ruling parties, which suffered heavy losses in municipal elections held throughout Italy in 1993. Meanwhile, the ex-Communist PDS and the MSI, which emerged relatively unscathed from the corruption scandals, scored significant gains, along with the Lega Nord (Northern League), an alliance of several northern regional movements led by the Lega Lombarda (Lombard League), which advocated further devolutionary concessions to the Italian regions, particularly in fiscal matters. According to the Lega - the second largest political force in northern Italy after the 1992 legislative elections - corrupt and greedy politicians in Rome were squandering the tax money of prosperous, industrial northern Italy, most of which was spent in the poorer regions of southern Italy. Although the Lega sought to portray a centrist image, it stood against what it regarded as excessive levels of both migration - from the south of Italy - and immigration to the north.

In an attempt to portray a new image and stave off further losses, the disgraced Christian Democratic Party reverted in early 1994 to the name of its interwar predecessor, the Partito Popolare Italiano (PPI; Italian Popular Party); right-wing dissidents split from the party to organize the Christian Democratic Center (CCD). Meanwhile, the MSI, which sought to distance itself from its neo-fascist origins, formed the Alleanza Nazionale (AN; National Alliance) in order to broaden its electoral appeal. However, the void created by the demise of the DC was promptly filled by Forza Italia (Go Italy!), a right-wing populist movement founded by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi in order to prevent a widely expected victory by the left in the 1994 legislative elections.

To that end, Berlusconi initially attempted to form a broad right-of-center electoral alliance with both the Lega Nord and Alleanza Nazionale, which proved to be impossible due to the intense mutual hostility between AN, which advocated a strong central government, and the Lega, which proposed that Italy become a federation of states or cantons, along the lines of Switzerland. Consequently, Forza Italia, joined by the CCD, formed two electoral alliances: the Polo della Libertà (Freedom Alliance) with the Lega Nord in the north, and the Polo del Buon Governo (Good Government Alliance) with Alleanza Nazionale in the south. Despite the fact that Alleanza Nazionale ran its own candidates in the north to compete with the Freedom Alliance, the two coalitions scored a landslide victory in the March 27, 1994 legislative elections, defeating the eight-party, left-wing Progressive Alliance (Progressisti) headed by the PDS, and winning an absolute majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies, as well as a relative majority in the Senate. Meanwhile, the centrist Patto per l'Italia (Pact for Italy), formed by the PPI and the Patto Segni (Segni Pact), came in a distant third in the race.

Six weeks after the election, Berlusconi formed a coalition government with his election allies. However, the Lega Nord broke with the government in December, which forced Berlusconi to resign after only seven months in office. As it became impossible to find a successor capable of commanding a parliamentary majority, President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro swore in a stopgag government of nonpoliticians, presided by Lamberto Dini, a former director-general of the Bank of Italy. During his one-year tenure in office, Dini presided over regional elections held under a new electoral system, in which a center-left alliance led by the PDS secured a narrow victory over Forza Italia and its right-wing allies. The Lega Nord ran alone in the election, while the PPI split over the issue of coalition deals: a group led by Rocco Buttiglione attempted to align the Popolari with the center-right cartel, but an opposing faction won control of the party, which finally joined the center-left coalition. As a result, Buttiglione and his followers left the PPI, subsequently forming the Cristiani Democratici Uniti (CDU; United Christian Democrats).

In January 1996, President Scalfaro appointed Antonio Maccanico to succeed Dini, who had resigned as prime minister. However, Maccanico was unable to muster majority support in Parliament; consequently, Scalfaro dissolved the national legislature and called an early election. The main contenders in the 1996 parliamentary election were L'Ulivo (The Olive Tree), a center-left coalition of the PDS, the Popolari (in a joint PR ticket with minor centrist groups), the Federation of Greens, the Italian Renewal list (organized by outgoing prime minister Dini) and the Sardinian Action Party; and the right-of-center Polo per le Libertà (Alliance for Freedom), formed by Forza Italia, Alleanza Nazionale (which by now had renounced its neo-fascist roots), the CCD and the CDU, the latter two fielding a joint PR ticket. The Lega Nord ran alone in the election - which helped the center-left - while Rifondazione Comunista reached a stand-down agreement with the Olive Tree, under which the latter supported Rifondazione candidates running under the Progressisti (Progressive) label in selected Senate and Chamber single-member constituencies, while Rifondazione backed Olive Tree candidates presented in the rest of the country. Although the PDS was the senior partner in the Olive Tree, the coalition was led by Romano Prodi, a former Christian Democrat and a professor of economics at the University of Bologna, who had once headed the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (IRI), a large state holding company; Silvio Berlusconi headed the Alliance for Freedom.

In the election, held on April 21, 1996, the Olive Tree secured a narrow majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and a somewhat larger majority in the Senate. However, in the Chamber of Deputies the coalition's majority depended on the votes of thirty-five Rifondazione Comunista deputies. Nonetheless, Prodi became prime minister, heading the first government dominated by the left since the proclamation of the Italian Republic in 1946. The Prodi government held office for two years and four months - at the time the second longest-serving government in Italy since the end of World War II (currently the third) - until Rifondazione withdrew its support to the government in October 1998. Despite the support of several Rifondazione deputies - who subsequently broke with the party to establish a Party of Italian Communists - the Prodi government was defeated by a single vote in a Chamber of Deputies confidence motion. Prodi, who was later chosen as President of the European Commission, was succeeded as prime minister by PDS leader Massimo D'Alema, who presided over two short-lived coalition governments.

Shortly after the 1996 legislative elections, the Lega Nord - which emerged from the poll as the largest single group in northern Italy - began to advocate the outright secession of the north from the rest of the country. However, after sustaining heavy losses in local and European electoral contests, a significantly weakened Lega rejoined Silvio Berlusconi's latest center-right cartel, the Casa delle Libertà (House of Freedoms), which scored a clear victory in regional elections held in April 2000.

In the wake of the Olive Tree's poor showing in the regional elections, prime minister D'Alema resigned from office. Giuliano Amato, his Treasury minister and a former prime minister, succeeded him. However, on Amato's recommendation, the Olive Tree chose Francesco Rutelli, a former mayor of Rome, as its candidate for prime minister in the 2001 legislative elections. As in the previous contest, the major contenders were the center-left Olive Tree, and right-of-center House of Freedoms cartel, led again by Silvio Berlusconi.

The House of Freedoms included Forza Italia, Alleanza Nazionale, the Lega Nord, the CCD and the CDU (running a joint PR ticket, as in 1996), and the New Italian Socialist Party. Meanwhile, the Olive Tree was now formed by the Democratici di Sinistra (Democrats of the Left, a merger of the PDS with several minor left-wing groups), La Margherita (The Daisy, an alliance of the PPI, the Democrats, Italian Renewal - Dini List, and the Democrats' Union for Europe), Il Girasole (The Sunflower, a joint ticket presented by the Italian Democratic Socialists and the Federation of Greens), and the Comunisti Italiani (Italian Communists). In addition, the Olive Tree ran a joint ticket with the Südtiroler Volkspartei (SVP; South Tyrol People's Party) in largely Italian-speaking areas of the Trentino Alto Adige region. However, the Olive Tree was unable to reach an agreement with Rifondazione Comunista, which ran Senate candidates against the center-left coalition. Nonetheless, Rifondazione did not contest single-member constituency seats in the Chamber of Deputies, where it supported the Olive Tree.

The absence of an electoral agreement between the Olive Tree and Rifondazione helped the House of Freedoms, which went on to win the May 13, 2001 parliamentary election, with clear majorities in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. In the Chamber proportional vote, Forza Italia, which emerged as the largest single party, increased its vote substantially, while the Lega Nord dropped below four percent. However, the election results revealed significant differences in the outcome of the Senate ballot and the two Chamber ballots: although the House of Freedoms prevailed in all three contests, its lead in both the Senate and (particularly) the Chamber constituency vote was significantly smaller than in the Chamber proportional vote, where it scored a landslide victory.

The election results allowed Silvio Berlusconi to become prime minister once more, at the helm of a House of Freedoms coalition government that lasted almost four years in office - the longest serving Italian administration since the end of World War II. Although Berlusconi's ruling coalition survived frequent (and since 2003 noticeably louder) threats by Lega Nord leader Umberto Bossi to bring down the government unless he got his way, in April 2005 the House of Freedoms was trounced in regional elections, winning only in two of the thirteen (subsequently fourteen) regions holding a vote. Shortly afterwards the Union of Christian Democrats and Center Democrats (UDC; a merger of the CCD and the CDU) pulled out of the government, and the Alleanza Nazionale threatened to quit as well. As a result, Berlusconi was forced to step down from office, but he was able to form a new coalition government within days of his resignation.

The Quest for Stability and the Return to Proportional Representation

When Italy adopted its new electoral system in 1993, there were high hopes - both within the country and beyond its frontiers - that the new parliamentary election procedures would lead to a simplified political system, which would in turn produce stable, effective, long-lasting governments. So far, these have proved to be highly elusive goals: from 1994 to 2006, Italy had eight governments, which on average have lasted a little more than a year in office. Although the electoral system led to the rise of two broad electoral cartels on the right and the left, which have alternated in power, the party system remains highly fragmented; at the same time, the electoral alliances have proved to be rather fragile, compromising governmental stability in the process.

While many Italians believed the retention of a PR component led to persistent party fragmentation, the problem appeared to originate in the internal agreements reached by coalition partners in order to allocate single-member college nominations: smaller parties usually demanded and secured safe seats, as a condition for joining one coalition or the other; rather than risk losing the election, the larger coalition partners usually bowed to these demands, outrageous as they were sometimes. Consequently, small parties often secured parliamentary representation even when they failed to reach the four percent PR threshold - as was the case in the 2001 election with the Lega Nord, the CCD-CDU, the Italian Democratic Socialists, the Federation of Greens, the Italian Communists and the New Italian Socialist Party, all of which were represented in Parliament, despite polling less than four percent of the Chamber proportional vote. This persistent phenomenon was referred to as the proportionalization of the first-past-the-post system.

Although the electoral coalitions appear to give Italian voters the clear choices they were supposedly denied in the days of DC-dominated governments under full-blown proportional representation, these alliances have been largely geared to win elections first, and sort out policy differences among coalition partners later. However, these policy differences often prove too difficult or impossible to overcome, which makes it difficult for the cartels to hold governments (or even themselves) together. In this context, it should not come as a surprise that under the so-called "Second Republic", not a single elected government in Italy has managed to complete its five-year term in office so far.

As of mid-to-late 2005, it appeared unlikely that the Italian electoral system would undergo any major changes in the immediate future. Successive referendum proposals in 1999 and 2000, which sought to abolish the election by proportional representation of one-quarter of the Chamber seats, were invalidated when voter turnout failed to reach the required quorum of fifty percent of the registered voters plus one - although an overwhelming majority of the voters who took part in the referenda supported the proposals, reflecting a growing sense of frustration with an electoral system that had failed to deliver the promise of stable governments.

However, as findings from opinion polls taken after the House of Freedoms' poor showing in the April 2005 regional elections suggested the center-left Unione (Union) would score a significant victory as well in the upcoming 2006 legislative elections, and in all likelihood secure very large majorities in both houses of Parliament under the existing electoral system, in late 2005 the Berlusconi government - until then strongly opposed to bringing back proportional representation - did a 180-degree turn and pushed through Parliament legislation to re-introduce PR with a majority prize for elections to the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.

The New Electoral Systems

For elections to the Chamber of Deputies, each elector casts one vote for a party list. These lists are closed, so electors cannot choose individual candidates in or alter the order of such lists. 617 out of 630 Chamber seats are distributed at the national level by the largest remainder method of PR among: coalitions that obtain at least ten percent of the vote and which include at least one party that obtains two percent of the vote or more; political parties that obtain at least four percent of the vote, running individually or as part of a coalition that obtains less than ten percent of the vote; and parties representing recognized linguistic minorities that obtain at least twenty percent of the vote in their corresponding regions. Chamber seats awarded to a coalition are in turn proportionally allocated among constituent parties that have obtained at least two percent of the vote; however, this requirement is waived for the coalition party with the largest number of votes among those polling fewer than two percent.

The new Chamber system provides for a nationwide majority prize: if the coalition that obtains a majority of votes initially receives less than fifty-five percent of the seats filled in Italy proper (340 out of 618), its number of seats is increased to 340. In this case the remaining 277 seats - Valle d'Aosta continues to elect one deputy in a single-member constituency - are apportioned among the other qualifying coalitions and individual parties.

Chamber seats in Italy proper are subsequently distributed among twenty-six multi-member districts - the same districts used under the previous electoral system - following a set of complex procedures designed to insure that seats are filled in all districts without changing the nationwide distribution of seats or the apportionment of seats among districts.

Italian citizens residing abroad elect the remaining twelve deputies. These seats, which are grouped in four regions - Europe (including the entire Russian Federation and all of Turkey), South America, North and Central America, and the rest of the world - are also distributed according to the largest remainder method of PR.

For elections to the Senate, electors vote for a closed party list in eighteen of Italy's twenty regions. Senate seats in these regions are apportioned by the largest remainder method of PR among coalitions that receive at least twenty percent of the vote and which include at least one party that receives three percent of the vote or more, as well as parties that receive at least eight percent of the vote, running individually or within a coalition that receives less than twenty percent of the vote. Senate seats awarded to a coalition are in turn proportionally allocated among constituent parties that have received at least three percent of the vote.

The new Senate system also features a regional majority prize: if the coalition that obtains a majority of votes in a given region is initially allocated less than fifty-five percent of the seats filled in the region, its number of seats is increased to no less than fifty-five percent of the region's total, and the remaining seats are distributed among the other qualifying coalitions and individual parties. However, no regional majority prize is awarded in Molise, which elects only two senators.

Valle d'Aosta continues to elect one senator in a single-member constituency, and Trentino-Alto Adige continues using the previous Senate electoral system, in compliance with a 1991 law that established six single-member Senate seats in the region, equally distributed between Italian-speaking Trento (Trent) province and German-speaking Bolzano (Südtirol) province. Finally, six senators are chosen by Italian citizens residing abroad; these seats are filled in the same manner as the corresponding seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

It had been widely anticipated that in the event of an Unione victory under the new PR systems, the resulting center-left majorities in both houses of Parliament would be considerably smaller than under the previous systems, and the leader of the Unione, former Prime Minister (and former President of the European Commission) Romano Prodi had promised to undo the changes if the center-left returned to power in this year's elections. However, the elections - held on April 9-10, 2006 - delivered a completely unexpected outcome. In the Senate vote, the upper house members chosen by Italian expatriates gave the center-left a lead of just two seats over the center-right; in the Chamber of Deputies election, Prodi prevailed by the narrowest of margins - 24,755 votes out of 38,153,343 valid ballots cast, or 0.07% of the total - which nonetheless was sufficient for the center-left to receive the majority prize of 340 seats in the lower house of Parliament.

After the allocation of all Senate and Chamber of Deputies seats chosen by Italians residing abroad, the distribution of legislative seats in the 2006 parliamentary elections (including Valle d'Aosta and Trentino-Alto Adige) was as follows:

         Seats   
        
  
   Coalition Leader    Senate    Chamber   
   Romano Prodi    158    348   
   Silvio Berlusconi    156    281   
   Others    1    1   

Thus, in an ironic twist of events, the electoral reforms introduced by Berlusconi's government allowed the center-left to secure a narrow Senate majority as well as a substantial majority in the Chamber of Deputies, the latter much larger than their extremely close popular vote lead, and - judging from past election results - possibly larger than the majority they might have attained with the same amount of votes under the old electoral system.

The newly elected houses of Parliament went on to choose Unione candidates Franco Marini and Fausto Bertinotti as Speakers of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, respectively. Then, in May 2006, an electoral college formed by the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies and delegates from Italy's twenty regions (one from Valle d'Aosta and three from each of the remaining nineteen regions) designated as President of the Republic the Unione-backed candidate, then-life Senator Giorgio Napolitano. Shortly after being sworn into office, President Napolitano formally appointed Romano Prodi as prime minister; both houses of Parliament subsequently gave a vote of confidence to Prodi's new Unione coalition government.

Romano Prodi remained in office until January 2008, when the tiny, middle-of-the-road Popolari UDEUR pulled out of his coalition government. Although the remaining coalition partners, headed by the Partito Democratico (PD; Democratic Party, a 2007 merger of the Democratici di Sinistra and La Margherita) retained a comfortable majority in the Chamber of Deputies and Prodi easily prevailed in a confidence motion there, the departure of Popolari UDEUR deprived the center-left of its narrow Senate majority, and Prodi lost the vote of confidence in the upper house, which brought down his government after only twenty months in office.

Following the collapse of Prodi's government, President Napolitano asked Senate Speaker Franco Marini to form an interim government that would revise the electoral law. However, Marini was unable to raise majority support in Parliament for electoral reform, and Napolitano had no choice but to dissolve both houses of the Italian legislature and call an early election under the existing system. In the election, held in April 2008, the coalition of Berlusconi's new center-right party, Il Popolo della Libertà (PdL; People of Freedom, a merger of Forza Italia with Alleanza Nazionale and a number of smaller right-of-center parties), Lega Nord and the small Movimento per l'Autonomia (MpA; Movement for Autonomy) trounced the Partito Democratico-Italia dei Valori coalition headed by PD leader (and Rome Mayor) Walter Veltroni. Only the constituent parties in Berlusconi's and Veltroni's respective coalitions, UDC and regional parties from Trentino-Alto Adige and Valle d'Aosta secured parliamentary representation; La Sinistra l'Arcobaleno or Rainbow Left - which brought together Rifondazione Comunista, the Party of Italian Communists and the Federation of Greens - failed to win a single seat in either the Senate or the Chamber of Deputies, leaving Communists out of Parliament for the first time since the end of World War II.

In May 2008, Silvio Berlusconi returned to power as head of a PdL-Lega Nord coalition government. However, in July 2010 thirty-three PdL deputies and ten senators, headed by former AN leader (and Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies) Gianfranco Fini established Futuro e Libertà per l'Italia (FLI; Future and Freedom for Italy). Even though FLI has not broken away from PdL, it effectively held the balance of power in the Chamber of Deputies, where Berlusconi survived a confidence vote in August, in which most FLI deputies abstained.

Despite facing a number of sex scandals and corruption allegations, Prime Minister Berlusconi stubbornly clung to office until November 2011, when the European debt crisis threatened to push Italy's already stagnant economy to the brink of a bailout. After it became clear the government could no longer command a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, Berlusconi resigned and President Napolitano appointed Mario Monti, an economist and former European Union Commissioner, as head of a technocratic cabinet of non-party experts.

Monti's government, which went on to implement a number of unpopular austerity measures, initially enjoyed cross-party support and easily won confidence votes in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. However, in December 2012 PdL withdrew its support, triggering Monti's resignation; President Napolitano subsequently dissolved Parliament and called a general election for February 24-25, 2013, two months ahead of schedule.

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Last update: September 30, 2013.