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The Italian Constitutional Court was set to rule Wednesday on the legitimacy of the country’s electoral law, a decision that could also determine whether snap elections will be called this year.

A ruling of the highest court on the issue became necessary as different election laws now apply to the lower house and the upper house of the parliament.

The supreme judges have to decide whether the current system to elect the Chamber of Deputies, or lower house, is legitimate in all of its parts.

The law has been in fact challenged under several points of view before five Italian tribunals, which referred to the highest court.

The panel of constitutional judges could take different paths: they could rule the law is legitimate as it is; or, they could call it illegitimate (in one or more parts), without saying what amendments are needed; or, they could provide some suggestions on what is needed for the law to be right.

Somehow, the tangle concerning Italy’s electoral system resulted from reforms implemented by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government combined with recent political events.

The new law was in fact passed in 2015, and would apply to the lower house only. It would allocate a 54 percent majority of seats to the party winning at least 40 percent of the vote in a first round.

If no party reach the threshold, the two biggest parties would face a second round providing still a 54 percent majority to the winner.

On the other hand, the senate, or upper house, is elected on a proportional system.

The 2015 electoral law was not designed for the senate, because a constitutional reform approved by lawmakers last year would have demoted it into a non-elected regional assembly.

Yet, the constitutional reform was rejected in a referendum held on Dec. 4. Thus, the senate remained untouched, and a prior (to the reform) proportional law would govern its election.

The harsh defeat of the cabinet-backed constitutional reform brought about the resignation of Renzi from the post of prime minister in early December.

Paolo Gentiloni followed in the post with a similar parliamentary majority to take care of the most urgent issues, and the current legislature was due to end in February 2018.

While Italian President Sergio Mattarella has repeatedly asked the parliament to “harmonize” two electoral systems before going to the polls again, most parties — including Renzi’s center-left Democratic Party (PD) — are calling for early elections.

Yet, they have very different views on the kind of law they prefer, and no agreement was in sight in parliament.

If the constitutional court rules the so-called “majority premium” is illegitimate, the electoral law would essentially become proportional.

In this case — as well as in the case the court confirms the law is right as it is — a snap general election in spring 2017 would be likely, according to most media analysts.

On the other hand, if the court says the law does need some changes before being applied, the parliament will have to intervene, making early elections much less likely.

The constitutional judges have saved Tuesday and Wednesday to the hearing, after which the ruling will be issued. Enditem

Source: Alessandra Cardone, Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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