The 2018 Italian general election is due to be held on 4 March 2018.Voters will elect the 630 members of the Chamber of Deputies and the 315 elective members of the Senate of the Republic for the 18th legislature of the Republic of Italy, since 1948. The election will take place concurrently with the Lombard regional election and the Lazio regional election.

What are the main parties?

More than 20 parties are in the ring, but Italian voters are largely split into three political camps, according to recent polls.

  1. The center-left coalition, dominated by Renzi's Democratic Party and including several smaller parties, polled at 27.4% in the final pre-election poll of voter's intentions.
  2. The Five Star Movement -- led by 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio -- polled at 28%. The party has ruled out entering coalitions with other parties in the past.
  3. A right-wing bloc, constructed by four-time prime minister Berlusconi, leads the same poll at 36.8% and could end up as the largest grouping in parliament.

Berlusconi the deal-making media mogul has brokered an alliance that includes his center-right Forza Italia party, Matteo Salvini's far-right Northern League, and the neo-fascist Brothers of Italy. Berlusconi is currently banned from holding office as a result of a tax fraud conviction, but he could play a key role in helping to choose the country's next leader.

What are the issues?

Jobs, the economy and security remain concerns for voters, but one issue has dominated the pre-election debate: immigration. More than 600,000 people have arrived by sea from North Africa since 2013 when Italy last went to the polls, including 114,000 in 2017, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration. And the debate over immigration has highlighted racial tensions ahead of Sunday's vote.

Right-wing parties have pushed an anti-immigration agenda, including the Northern League, which has advocated for mass expulsions and pledged to put "Italians first." Berlusconi has warned that the number of migrants in Italy has caused "serious social alarm," and vowed to deport more than 600,000 undocumented migrants.

How does the new system work?

Italy has introduced a new hybrid electoral system for this year's vote which combines a first-past-the-post (FPTP) method with proportional representation (PR). First-past-the-post means the candidate who gets the most votes in a constituency wins a seat in parliament; proportional representation means that additional seats will allotted to parties based on the proportion of votes they win nationwide. Of the 630 seats in lower house of parliament -- the Chamber of Deputies -- 232 will be elected through FPTP, and 386 through PR. The remaining 12 seats are determined by overseas constituencies. A similar split will be used for Italy's upper house -- the Senate -- with 102 members elected by FPTP and 207 through PR. The new system, unlike the previous one, does not award bonus seats to the party or coalition that finishes in first place, making it more difficult to achieve a governing majority. Compared to the law used in 2013, (the new system) favors partisan fragmentation and makes a parliamentary majority more difficult to achieve. In practice, it will certainly favor the center-right coalition and damage both the M5S and the center-left coalition, where the allies of the Democratic party are quite small and whose votes may in some cases be wasted.

Who will win?

With an unproven new system in place and a bloc of undecided voters, many observers believe Italy is headed toward a hung parliament. There are a few potential outcomes on the table:

  1. A "grand coalition" between the Democratic Party, Forza Italia and other centrist allies;
  2. An outright victory of Berlusconi's right-wing coalition; or
  3. A populist government of M5S and Northern League.

All these options, however, are unlikely to get enough seats to form a viable governmental coalition.

The most likely outcome is that no coherent parliamentary majority will exist after March 4. In this case, it is likely that the Gentiloni government will continue to sit in a provisional capacity while parties enter long discussions on whether (to build) an 'all-party' technical government limited to a set of specific reforms or call new general elections.


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