April 11, 2006
Strange Doin's In the City of Seven Hills
The controversy over the Italian elections continues apace. First of all, according to the Associated Press, although the counting of votes from Italians living abroad is not yet completed, the Interior Ministry has already leapt to allocate four of the six Senate seats those votes decide to Romano Prodi, giving him a plurality of seats in the Senate of the Republic -- 158 out of 322.
In the Senate, the Interior Ministry assigned Prodi's coalition four of six seats chosen by Italians voting abroad. The tally gave Prodi a total of 158 seats to 156 for Berlusconi, leaving Prodi the minimum necessary to claim majority the house. The ministry assigned the seats on its Web site, even though full returns from overseas polling stations weren't completely tabulated.
Now perhaps it's mathematically impossible for Silvio Berlusconi's House of Liberty coalition to win three seats; but it's still rather unseemly for an official government organ to assign seats on the basis of a projection of the vote.
Second, Reuters reports that more than 43,000 ballots were not counted, even though election officials weren't actually in agreement that they were spoilt:
Among the possible problems were 43,028 "disputed" votes in the lower house count that official scrutineers had decided to annul despite their doubts as to whether the ballots had really had been spoilt or not.
Berlusconi said he wanted those disputed votes reviewed.
He also said there were "many irregularities" in votes from Italians living abroad. This foreign vote proved crucial in the Senate, enabling Prodi to claim his eventual lead.
Prodi's declared victory in the Chamber of Deputies was by only 25,000 votes; if officials counted those disputed 43,000 ballots, and if Berlusconi won 80% of them, he would have a sliver of plurality over Prodi... another sense in which these Italian elections are like the Florida 2000 contest, where absentee ballots from Florida soldiers were deliberately excluded by Democratic election officials (on the basis of a memo from the Democratic Party instructing election boards in various ways that military ballots could be annulled).
We (here in America) don't yet know why those ballots were excluded, who decided to exclude them, where they're from, and how likely they are to support Berlusconi so heavily. I'm not sure the Italians even know that much yet. But until those questions are answered, a great cloud hangs over this election.
There is time to settle much of this before Prodi attempts to form a new government. Reuters:
Parliament is due to convene for the first time on April 28 and under the Italian constitution it is up to the president to nominate a new government after consultation with party leaders.
But the transition process is further complicated by the fact that [Italian President Carlo Azeglio] Ciampi's mandate expires next month and he wants his successor to oversee the appointment of the next administration.
Political analysts say that even in a best case scenario, it might take two months for a government to be sworn in.
That is actually more time than it took us to resolve the 2000 election dispute -- and that included two decisions by the Supreme Court of Florida and two decisions by the United States Supreme Court, overturning the scofflaw SCOFLA.
If it's not resolved one way or another fairly soon, a revote may be in the offing.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 11, 2006, at the time of 2:55 PM
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The following hissed in response by: Davod
Italian politics is much more volatile than US politics. I believe they have had something like 140 elections since WWII.
You should really say that Florida was more like Italian politics.
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