Initial exit polls suggested a victory for Prodi, but the results narrowed as the count progressed. On April 11, Prodi declared victory; Berlusconi never conceded defeat explicitly but this is not required by the Italian law.
Preliminary results showed The Union leading the House of Freedoms in the Chamber of Deputies, with 340 seats to 277, thanks to obtaining a majority bonus (actual votes were distributed 49.81% to 49.74%). One more seat is allied with the Union (Valle d'Aosta) and 7 more seats in the foreign constituency. The House of Freedoms had secured a slight majority of Senate seats elected within Italy (155 seats to 154), but The Union won 4 of the 6 seats allocated to voters outside Italy, giving them control of both chambers. On April 19, Italy's court of last resort (Corte di Cassazione) ruled that Prodi had indeed won the election, winning control of the Chamber of Deputies by only 24,755 votes out of more than 38 million votes cast, and winning 158 seats in the Senate to 156 for Berlusconi's coalition. Even so, Berlusconi refused to concede defeat, claiming unproven fraud.
Recent developments, including publishing of a controversial documentary film about alleged frauds in the ballot counting during the election, brought on December 2006 the Electoral Committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies to request for a recount of all ballot papers, starting from a 10% sample.
The House of Freedoms (Casa delle Libertà), was the previous government coalition led by the former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi and was mainly made up of the same parties as in the previous general election. This is the coalition of parties for the election:
The Socialist Party New PSI, a small party composed of former socialists of the late Italian Socialist Party and led by former 1980s and 1990s minister Gianni De Michelis, which is part of the Berlusconi III government with a minister without portfolio, suffered a split on its last national congress (October 21–October 23, 2005), with a left-wing side, led by Bobo Craxi, son of the late Bettino, who decided to immediately leave the House of Freedoms and unilaterally elected Craxi himself as new party leader. The NPSI will take part in the election in a joint list with the centrist Christian Democracy for the Authonomies.
The smelly fucking cunt shit ate my baby of the electoral law to a proportional system (which would most likely favour them) and some sort of primary election to formally decide the next candidate to prime-ministership. When the proportional representation system was restored (albeit a form very different from the UDC proposal) and Marco Follini, critic of several reforms imposed by Berlusconi on the whole coalition, resigned from the UDC secretarship, the possibility of a change of leadership inside the House of Freedoms was significantly reduced. On October 27, Lorenzo Cesa was appointed as new UDC secretary, becoming the successor of Follini himself. The coalition announced a "three-forwards" system, meaning that the prime minister candidate will be the political leader, among Casini, Fini and Berlusconi, whose party will win most votes. Since Berlusconi's party was known to be by far the largest one, it was understood that Berlusconi was the actual candidate.
One event which caused heavy criticism from the opposition was the support, sought and obtained by Berlusconi, of a number of fascist movements and parties, notably the Social Alternative of Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the former dictator of Italy, and Luca Romagnoli, an holocaust denier. Supporters of Berlusconi have responded to this pointing to the presence in the Union of two communist parties, which had among their candidates no-global activist Francesco Caruso and a transgender, Vladimir Luxuria.
The former Olive Tree coalition, expression of the Italian left, now renamed as The Union (L'Unione), was led for the election by former Prime Minister and former President of the European Commission Romano Prodi, who had already beaten Berlusconi in the 1996 elections. Prodi's candidacy was confirmed by a national primary election, held on October 16 2005 (for more information about the primary election, see the related paragraph below).
Moreover, the former coalition was enlarged in order to cover the whole ensemble of Italian left-wing factions. The parties in the alliance are:
The Rose in the Fist was officially founded in September 25 2005, when the Italian Radicals, a historical libertarian, laicist and socially leftist party of Italy, officially declared an alliance with the Italian Democratic Socialists in the form of a confederation, with explicit references to the politics of Tony Blair, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Loris Fortuna, an Italian politician in the 1970s who became famous for his laicist proposals, and is considered the father of the law on divorce. This confederation immediately caused a stir for not having signed the political platform of The Union, being the only center-left party not to do that; the Rose in the Fist, represented by Emma Bonino in the final platform meeting, in fact protested about insufficient mentions of social issues such as legalization of civil unions.
The Socialists, who are the left wing of the Socialist Party New PSI led by Bobo Craxi which emerged the House of Freedoms, was supposed to join that confederation, but eventually did not do so, instead reorganizing itself in a single party, which however failed to get over the 2% of national votes. However, Bobo Craxi was able to enter in the Lower House, as he was one of the leading candidates for the Olive Tree in Lombardy.
The Union is also supported by a number of minor parties and movements, although of those only the Pensioners' Party has any elected representation (1 Member of European Parliament).
Two televised debates were set by the Parliamentary Committee of Inspection on RAI, which had the goal of ensuring equal treatment for the two political sides. However, Prodi contested the deliberation of this Committee, which allowed Berlusconi to also hold a final televised speech after the debates as Prime Minister. Prodi refused to participate in any debate until this final speech had been cancelled. The issue was resolved on March 3, when Berlusconi finally agreed to cancel the final speech.
The debates lasted about 90 minutes each, did not include commercials, and had a preset time for each answer and each reply, and the obligation to film only the speaking person at any given time. The candidates were also forbidden to bring any kind of notes with them, even though they could write some down during the debate, and no audience was allowed to participate. This set of rules was very unusual in Italian political talk shows, where politicians usually interrupt each other, talk simultaneously and for as long as they can hold the word. Questions to candidates are posted by two journalists from the Italian press: the moderator himself was not allowed to ask any questions, but only to present the debate and guarantee respect of the rules. At the end of the debates, the candidates are allowed to make a final statement of 3 minutes.
The first televised debate, held on March 14, was broadcast live on Rai Uno, and moderated by Clemente Mimun, Director of TG1. It featured questions from journalists Roberto Napoletano of Il Messaggero and Marcello Sorgi of La Stampa. It was watched by over 16 million people, a record for a political TV show. During his final speech, Berlusconi, who often overran his intervention times, attacked the rules of the debate, in his opinion too strict, whereas Prodi praised them, pointing out the fact that they are used in US debates this way, as well. Some observers commented that Berlusconi had been disappointing in this debate, scribbling nervously while he was talking and at a point confusing Iran and Iraq; while all politicians claimed their candidate had won the debate, it was generally agreed that Berlusconi had not dealt a strong blow to Prodi.
The second debate , moderated by Bruno Vespa, an Italian journalist and anchorman, was held on April 3 and broadcast live on Rai Uno, featuring questions from Napoletano and Sorgi (same journalists of the first debate). It was dominated by the economic proposals and was more intense, with much stronger tones between Prodi and Berlusconi. In this debate, Berlusconi had the possibility of making the final 3-minute statement: in this time, he delivered his "surprise blow" proposing the abolition of ICI, a local tax on real estate whose money belongs to local city councils, for the first homes of Italian families.
Later on, it turned out that Berlusconi's proposal was not completely agreed upon in the rest of the House of Freedoms, and Prodi, immediately after the debate, noted "about ICI, I want to know what the centre-right mayors think about".
The main points of the centre-left platform are:
The main points of the centre-right platform were:
According to the Italian par condicio law, it is forbidden to publish any opinion polling in the 15 days which precede the election (March 25, in this case).
The final result (49.8% Union vs 49.7% House of Freedoms) was about 3% different from almost all polls (including all the exit polls) reducing the expected 5% gap between the coalition to a difference of about 0.1%. On Italian TV some tried to explain this discrepancy claiming that some House of Freedoms voters were ashamed to admit that they planned to vote for them. Others claimed that the last week of electoral campaign, dominated by Berlusconi's proposal of cutting ICI and by the media's insistence on the alleged new taxes advocated by The Union, persuaded a large number of Italians, usually uninterested to politics, to cast a vote for the House of Freedoms.
|Polling Firm||Date||The Union|
|House of Freedoms|
Casa delle Libertà
|IPR marketing (exit poll)||10 April, 2006||50-53||46-49|
|Nexus (exit poll)||10 April, 2006||50-54||47-49|
|Piepoli Institute (in house poll)||10 April, 2006||52||47|
|IPR Marketing||22 March, 2006||52||47|
|TNS Abacus||20 March||51.5||48|
|GfK Eurisko||20 March||52||46.7|
|Ekma Ricerche||20 March||53.5||46|
|IPR Marketing||16 March||52||47.7|
|GfK Eurisko||15 March||51||46.5|
|TNS Abacus||13 March||51.5||48|
|Ekma Ricerche||13 March||53||46.3|
|IPR Marketing||12 March||52||47.7|
|Penn, Schoen & Berland||9 March||48.3||48.8|
|Euromedia Research||9 March||49.3||50|
|TNS Abacus||9 March||51||47.5|
|Lorien Consulting||7 March||51.1||48.1|
|IPR Marketing||7 March||52.2||47.5|
|Ekma Ricerche||6 March||52||47.5|
|IPR Marketing||1 March||52.2||47.3|
|TNS Abacus||1 March||51.5||47|
|Ekma Ricerche||27 February||51.8||47.2|
|TNS Abacus||22 February||51.5||47|
|IPR Marketing||21 February||52.1||47.4|
|Ekma Ricerche||20 February||51.2||47|
|IPR Marketing||16 February||52||47.5|
|Penn, Schoen & Berland||16 February||48.2||48.4|
|TNS Abacus||15 February||51||47|
|Ekma Ricerche||13 February||51.5||47.5|
|TNS Abacus||8 February||51||46.5|
|IPR Marketing||7 February||52||47|
|Ekma Ricerche||6 February||52.5||46.5|
|TNS Abacus||1 February||51||46|
|Euromedia Research||1 February||50.9||47.9|
|IPR Marketing||31 January||52.2||47.2|
|Lorien Consulting||30 January||51.5||45.9|
|TNS Abacus||25 January||51||45.5|
|IPR Marketing||25 January||52.5||47|
|Lorien Consulting||23 January||51.3||46|
|TNS Abacus||18 January||50.5||46|
|Euromedia Research||18 January||51.7||48.3|
|IPR Marketing||18 January||52||46|
|Lorien Consulting||16 January||51.4||45.7|
|IPR Marketing||11 January||52||46|
|TNS Abacus||11 January||51||46|
|IPR Marketing||11 December, 2005||52.8||44.9|
|IPR Marketing||7 November||52.5||44.5|
|IPR Marketing||25 October||52||45|
But, on October 18, Berlusconi announced that the election would be held on April 9, 2006, eventually following the suggestions from President Ciampi. Berlusconi also announced that the next administrative elections (which include the mayoral elections of Rome, Milan and Naples) will be held in May, the day after Romano Prodi had asked to vote for all elections the same day, in April. Berlusconi stated this was due to his fear that good government by center-left mayors could favour the center-left in the general election. Critics say holding all elections in the same day could save millions of euros in public expenditure.
Berlusconi has declared several times that he wants the par condicio law to be either repealed or at least changed in a much lighter way. Critics and opponents say that Berlusconi's willingness to have the law abolished are dictated by his almost complete control of 6 channels (he is owner of Mediaset, which broadcasts three national private channels, and controls indirectly, as Head of Government, the three RAI public broadcasting channels).
In his latter government years, Berlusconi attempted to accelerate his desires; however UDC, who is part of the Berlusconi government, declared several times its opposition to either abolish or change the par condicio law, with secretary Lorenzo Cesa, after his election as party leader, who pointed out his refusal of any change of the law.
The law however did not prevent Berlusconi from using his TV channels of Mediaset, and even SMS via cellphones, to manage to get more votes. During the election day Berlusconi's channels aired a lot of messages to remind people who were watching his TV channels to use their vote together with spots saying "Mediaset gives you everything without asking for anything in return". While these spots didn't break the par condicio law, it was broken by some of the journalists (especially Emilio Fede, well-known for his political ideas) of the Berlusconi's channels and in March and April 2006, the Italian Authority on Telecommunications fined twice his privately owned channels for violation of the par condicio law, the biggest fine to date (300,000 €).
The generalised tax break was somewhat enacted in 2005, and included in the last Financial Measure. The opposition blamed Berlusconi for doing the tax break in one of the worst economic periods for the country, with no coverage for the resulting debt, and accused Berlusconi's allies of accepting the tax break in return for better power positions; during the negotiations for the Financial Measure, the Alleanza Nazionale leader, and, at that date, vice-premier, Gianfranco Fini, was moved to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and UDC leader Marco Follini, who had no ministerial role before that date, was chosen to replace Fini.
In the electoral campaign, Berlusconi and the whole centre-right coalition almost daily criticized the left, alleging that Prodi would increase taxes if elected, pointing out the centre-left proposal to have a 5% cut of the tax wedge.
Taxes have become the main topic for the end of the electoral campaign, with Berlusconi citing Prodi would reintroduce the inheritance tax, abrogated in 2001, and increase the current tax system on treasury bills (BOT, CCT) and would tax also the stockmarket tradings. Prodi pointed out the fact that he would reintroduce the inheritance tax only for the very rich people, and would not increase the taxes on treasury bills.
In 2001 Berlusconi declared Western civilization to be "superior to Islam", which he was very much criticized for.
But in particular the international English-speaking press, such as Financial Times and Newsweek, criticized Berlusconi's work. Several times, before and after his election as prime minister, the weekly worldwide magazine The Economist accused Berlusconi of being essentially "unfit to lead Italy".
For the first time in Italian history, Italian citizens living abroad were able to vote by postal ballot (without having to physically return to Italy to cast their vote) for 12 deputies and 6 senators who will represent them in the Italian Parliament, an unusual system that was supported by Silvio Berlusconi and promoted by Mirko Tremaglia. These parliamentary seats are organized into four constituencies (Europe, North & Central America, Latin America, and Africa/Asia/Oceania). Candidates must live in their respective constituencies.
Forty-two percent of eligible voters abroad participated in the elections. Prodi's L’Unione managed to secure 4 of the 6 Senate seats, while Berlusconi's Forza Italia and an Independent candidate each gained 1 of the remaining 2 seats, aiding Prodi in gaining a majority in the Italian Senate. In the House of Deputies, 7 seats went to l'Unione, 4 to Berlusconi's coalition, and one to an Independent candidate. In North America, candidates from Toronto and Chicago were elected to the House of Deputies while the candidate from New York City was elected to the Senate.
Berlusconi has claimed, in challenging the election results, that there were irregularities in the vote abroad. The result of the vote may have been influenced by the fact that numerous Right-wing parties put forward candidates in the constituencies abroad, while there were few Left-wing candidates, thereby splitting the right-wing vote. This tactical error may be explained through the novelty of the vote abroad.
Italian citizens living outside of Italy have always had the De Jure right to vote in all referendums and elections being held in Italy (provided they had registered their residence abroad with their relevant consulate). However until late 2001, any citizen wishing to vote, was required to physically return to the city or town in Italy where he or she was registered on the electoral roll. The only exception to this rule was for the Italian elections to the european parliament in which voters could cast their ballot at their nearest consulate but only if they had their residence in one of the other 14 EU countries.
Until 2001 the Italian state offered citizens living abroad a free return train journey to their home town in Italy in order to vote, however the portion of the train journey that was free of charge was only on Italian soil. Any costs incurred in getting from their place of residence abroad to the Italian border had to be covered by the citizen wanting to vote, therefore a free return train journery was hardly an incentive for the large Italian communities living as far away as in the United States, Argentina or Australia. For this reason very few Italians abroad made use of this right to vote, unless they lived in cities and towns that bordered to Italy such as in Germany, Switzerland, France and Austria. Various Italian minorities living abroad (notably in the United States) protested frequently at this lack of political representation especially if they paid taxes on property owned in Italy.
After numerous years of petitioning and fierce debate, the Italian government, in late 2001, finally passed a law allowing Italian citizens living abroad to vote in elections in Italy by postal ballot. The change is the result of a thirty-year struggle to recognize the rights and special interests of Italians who have migrated abroad but retain their Italian identity.
Italians wishing to excise this right must first register their residence abroad with their relevant consulate.
The Italian Constitution prescribes that both chambers must accept every modification to the constitution twice within three months, and, if it passes with less than two thirds of the votes at the second scrutiny, a national referendum on the modification can be held (the reform will make it always possible to call such a referendum). Since the centre-left opposition opposed to the new constitutional reform, describing it as "dangerous", "separatist", and "antidemocratic", the first procedural step, that is, the approval by the Chamber of Deputies, was done successfully in October 2004, but with less than 2/3 of the lower-house votes, making possible the confirmative referendum. The second favourable polling, in Senate, was done on March 2005, whereas the third one occurred on October 20. During the third polling, former UDC leader Marco Follini announced he would abstain from the final vote, not support anymore the constitutional reform, followed by his party fellow Bruno Tabacci.
On November 17, the Senate approved the constitutional reform in its final instance; Northern League leader Umberto Bossi attended the discussion and the voting, returning back to the Parliament, even if just as spectator, after his illness. During the vote, Domenico Fisichella announced his opposition to the reform, and his immediate resignation from the party, going against the party line about the issue. Italian MPs quite easily change party and even coalition: in the legislature between 1996 and 2001 15% of MPs did so.
The House of Freedoms' proposal of constitutional reform has been done in a unilateral way - no agreement with the opposition, whereas the current Italian Constitution was written after World War II by all the national political forces (except the fascists), ranging from liberals, to christian democrats, to socialists, to communists and others. According to the House of Freedom, this policy was adopted in order to correct the constitutional reform approved by the former center-left majority in 2001 (Constitutional law 3/2001) with the same modus - no agreement with the opposition. However, the new reform deeply modifies constitutional system of Italy, while the 2001 reform just partially modified a section of the Constitution.
The national referendum, requested by the center-left opposition and a number of associations and regions - even by the center-right ruled Lombardy, has been kept in June 25-26th, 2006 and it has been concluded with the refusal of the constitutional reform by 61,32% of voting.
On April 3 and 4, 2005, regional elections were held in 13 Italian regions (the election in Basilicata was put off for two weeks because of irregularities). The final result actually reversed the political scenario of Italy, with left-wing opposition coalition The Union winning in 11 regions, while right-wing government coalition House of Freedoms maintaining only two of the eight regions they were ruling before the election. These results have brought some right-wing members, including vice-premier Marco Follini, to ask for early national election.
Major candidate Romano Prodi, who has been one of the main supporters of the primary election, gained a clear win, obtaining about 75% of the votes and defeating euro-communist leader Fausto Bertinotti, green Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, popular former magistrate Antonio Di Pietro, Catholic centrist politician Clemente Mastella, independent candidate Ivan Scalfarotto and far left-wing candidate Simona Panzino. The election was also opened to non-Italian official residents, even if they will not be eligible to vote for the general election.
The centre-left heavily criticized the current law, claiming it has damaged the future of the younger people. More recently, Prodi defined the current labour law as "much worse than French CPE".
The centre-left has proposed to put temporary and permanent job costs on the same level, contain the number of temporary labour forms, and regulate internships.
The Italian Chamber of Deputies has 630 seats, the Senate 315 (exactly half).
An electoral survey published on September 15 2005 by the national left newspaper La Repubblica claimed that, with the initial proposal of electoral reform become law, the House of Freedoms would win the next elections 340-290, even if they won only 45% of votes and the opposition coalition The Union won 50%, because the Union also includes several small parties with less than 4% of national votes. This could have been avoided if the small opposition parties ran on a common ticket. Aim of this bill of reform was to reduce the number of parties, and particularly the moderate Left would have taken advantage in respect to the smaller radical left parties.
The Democrats' Centre Union, commenting on the proposal, asked for the abolition of the 4% cut-off clause, whereas the National Alliance did not show any favour to this attempt of reform, with its leader Gianfranco Fini claiming to want first to vote for the constitutional reform, and then for the new voting system, on condition that the 4% cut-off were not repealed.
This proposal of law was strongly questioned by the opposition coalition, who defined it an "attempted coup". Opposition leader Romano Prodi said it was "totally unacceptable". Several newspapers politically oriented to the left nicknamed the electoral system proposal by the House of Freedoms as "Truffarellum", after "truffa" (Italian for "fraud") and the "Mattarellum", (from Sergio Mattarella), the most common name for the previous Italian electoral law (there is a recent custom to nickname new electoral systems by a somewhat Latinised version of the name of the lawmaker; another one is the system used in regional elections, the so-called "Tatarellum" from Pinuccio Tatarella).
Notably, some smaller opposition parties, such as Communist Refoundation Party and Popular-UDEUR, support a proportional electoral law; nevertheless, they declared they were against an electoral reform by this parliament, because the current law would be changed too close to the 2006 general election.
The Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had previously been a strong supporter of the plurality-based electoral law; in 1995, talking about his coalition, he even defined the plurality principle as "our religion".
A modified version of the first proposal, this time with a 2% threshold for entering Parliament and without vote of preference for candidates, but still without the support of the opposition, was presented to the Chamber of Deputies. The voting count started on October 11; the lower house of Italian parliament then approved the electoral reform on October 14. The new electoral was then eventually approved on December 16, 2005, and countersigned by President Ciampi on December 23, 2005.
Roberto Calderoli, the main author of this electoral reform, defined this law "a rascality" (using the mildly vulgar term "porcata").
Ironically, the new electoral law allowed Mr Prodi to count on a large majority in the Chamber and to obtain majority also in the Senate, where The House of Freedoms actually had more votes (49.88% vs. 49.18% of the Union).
Note: 7 Senators a vita (for life): Francesco Cossiga (Former Italian President), Oscar Luigi Scalfaro (Former Italian President), Giulio Andreotti (Former Italian Prime Minister), Rita Levi Montalcini (Nobel Prize winner for Medicine 1986), Emilio Colombo (Former Italian Prime Minister), Giorgio Napolitano (Former President of Italian Chamber of Deputies and Minister of the Interior), Sergio Pininfarina.
Although The Union led initial exit polls and was quickly expected to win the election, the gap with House of Freedoms narrowed as the votes were tabulated. The initial Interior Ministry results showed that Prodi had won the Chamber of Deputies by 25,204 votes, and Prodi declared victory on April 11. Berlusconi, however, refused to concede, claiming discrepancies in the vote counting process, with 43,028 Chamber ballots and 39,822 Senate ballots to be re-checked by the Interior Ministry. Berlusconi also claimed problems with the vote from abroad, which was critical in giving L'Unione a majority in the Senate. Five ballot boxes were also found on the streets in Rome after the election. On April 14, however, the Interior Ministry announced that there had been a mistake in the report of the number of ballots to be rechecked. Only 2,131 Chamber ballots and 3,135 Senate ballots merited re-examination (reducing the total number of disputed ballots from the over 80,000 initially reported to just over 5,000). The result of this check added equally a few hundred votes to each coalition.
Analysts also believed that the vote from abroad was so overwhelmingly in favour of L'Unione that the election would be highly unlikely to be overturned in Berlusconi's favour.
The last ruling of the supreme court ("Corte di Cassazione") on April 19 stated that Romano Prodi won the election by 24,755 votes.
On November 23, 2006, the Rome Attorney's office announced to have started an inquiry following the release of "Uccidete la democrazia" (Kill the democracy), a documentary movie about a supposed attempt by the centre-right government to manipulate the electoral results by switching a large number of blank ballot papers, which notably fell down from 4.2% to 1.1% of all valid papers (over one million less), to votes for the Forza Italia party.