Last Wednesday, PM Matteo Renzi and three delegates of his Partito Democratico met with delegates from Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement (M5S) in order to discuss the M5S proposals for a new electoral law.
This was the first meeting the two delegations had which resulted in a productive discussion. Whether or not other tangible results will follow is yet unclear, but this meeting itself was a novelty, and it showed a new attitude from M5S.
Until now, and mostly as a result of Beppe Grillo’s intransigent policy, M5S always refused to discuss any possible form of collaboration with traditional political parties, seen as corrupted and out of touch with ordinary citizens.
In fact, when Renzi was appointed PM in February he asked right away to meet with M5S to find some convergence on institutional reforms. Beppe Grillo thought that the movement should not have agreed to such meeting. In the end, following an online consultation with the activists, such meeting took place. Beppe Grillo himself went, but he refused to listen to Renzi and just ended up making a monologue in front of the numerous journalists who had gathered there.
Months after that episode, a new willingness to meet with the Partito Democratico shows a change in mood. M5S must have realized that being always exclusively in opposition does not achieve much. This time the idea of a meeting was suggested by M5S, and Renzi agreed.
M5S delegation (on the left) from left to right: Maurizio Buccarella (upper chamber group leader), Luigi di Maio, Danilo Toninelli, Giuseppe Brescia (lower chamber group leader)
Partito Democratico delegation (on the right) from left to right: Debora Serracchiani (vice party secretary), Alessandra Moretti (MEP), Matteo Renzi (PM and party leader) and Roberto Speranza (group leader)
The meeting was held in front of live webcams, as M5S always demands transparency. All the talking was done by Renzi from the Democratic side and by Danilo Toninelli, main author of the M5S electoral reform proposal, and Luigi Di Maio, deputy speaker of the lower chamber, from the M5S front. If anything, this meeting might have shown that M5S prides some smart individuals, as both Toninelli and Di Maio were highly prepared and articulate. Renzi, on the other hand, showed his habitual confidence in front of the camera and seemed to have really studied the draft proposed by M5S.
I will now briefly compared the main points of the electoral reform Renzi previously discussed with Berlusconi, and that he is still advocating, currently baptized “Italicum” and the main points of M5S proposal, drafted mainly by Toninelli after a series of online consultations with members, named “Democratellum”.
Italicum (Renzi- Berlusconi)
-Majoritarian nature: plurality bonus which would automatically give to the first party or coalition above a threshold of 37% a majority of seats. This should ensure “governability”
-If the 37% threshold is not met by any list, the first two coalitions or parties go to a run-off vote
-Closed lists: candidates are selected by parties, no preferences
-125 constituencies, but seats allocated only on a national basis
-Threshold at 4.5% for parties in coalitions, 8% for parties running individually and 12% for coalitions
-To be used only for the lower chamber, as Renzi is also pushing through a reform to make the upper chamber, the Senate, non-elected
-Proportional nature: 42 constituencies (some really large ones, likely to have too many candidates), seats to be allocated following an amended divisor for the D’Hondt method which would over-represent big parties and under-represent small parties, according to the principle “more votes, more seats and viceversa” (for the geeky ones like me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D'Hondt_method)
-Open lists: voters to be able to cast a preference for a candidate, not necessarily from the party they are voting for ("disjointed preference")
-“Negative preference”: voters to be allowed to erase the name of a candidate from the party list. This should encourage parties to candidate appropriate people (eg without a criminal record)
-Coalition formations do not have to be agreed before the election, to avoid pre-electoral compromises
Renzi made it very clear that while he thought that it had a lot of “interesting points”, in his view the Democratellum still did not ensure “governability”, meaning a clear mandate allowing the winner to govern the country, because such a proportional system would always lead to a big coalition government. The main question that Renzi asked the M5S delegation was: “Would you be open to consider the introduction of a run-off vote?”. If M5S said yes, future talks might be possibile. M5S, on the other hand, pressed for the introduction of preferences.
Di Maio today announced that they are ready for a second meeting with Renzi. We'll see.
For those of you who speak Italian, here is the video of the meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt45PtmBO7A&feature=youtu.be