Why do Italy’s regional elections matter – and who can vote in them?

With regional and local elections coming up in Italy, here's a look at what they're actually for and who is allowed to vote in them.

Why do Italy's regional elections matter - and who can vote in them?
A polling advisor casts a ballot in Milan. File photo: AFP

Regional elections will take place in seven of Italy's 20 regions on on September 20-21: the Aosta Valley, Campania, Liguria, Marche, Puglia, Tuscany, and Veneto.

Municipal elections will meanwhile take place in 1,149 comuni across Italy.
Some 18 provincial capitals will also go to the polls this month: Agrigento, Andria, Aosta, Arezzo, Bolzano, Chieti, Crotone, Enna, Fermo, Lecco, Macerata, Mantua, Matera, Nuoro, Reggio Calabria, Trani, Trento and Venice. 
Can I vote in an Italian regional or local election?
You can vote in regional elections if you have Italian citizenship, are over 18 years of age, and are registered on the electoral roll in your municipality.
You must vote in the town in which you're registered to vote, unless you're in a special category such as soldiers or police officers stationed elsewhere.
If you've been quarantined under Italian Covid-19 restrictions, you can still vote by sending a written statement and medical certificate to your local comune. See the italian goverment's FAQ on voting in regional elections for more details.
In municipal elections, all EU citizens living in Italy and registered as resident in the local comune are legally entitled to vote.
An EU citizen may also stand as a candidate at municipal elections, under the same conditions as an Italian national.
You must be at least 18 years old, and must not have been banned from voting in another EU member state.
A man walks past campaign posters ahead of regional elections held in Emilia-Romagna in January 2020. Photo: AFP

What are we voting for exactly?

The regional polls elect the president of each region –  roughly the equivalent of a state governor in the US.

The regional president appoints and heads a committee of councillors that help govern the region. There is also a regional parliament elected separately by voters.

Most candidates are aligned with Italy's biggest political parties – which are currently the League (Lega), the Democratic Party (partito democratico, or PD), the Five Star Movement (movimento Cinque Stelle (or M5S), Forza Italia. But many candidates are often from other, smaller parties including Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia) and regional groups such as the Sardinian Action Party.

The below map shows which party currently rules which region in Italy, with those awaiting an election this month marked in grey and bordered by the colour of the party in power.

Map: Wikimedia Commons

The situation is similar in local (municipal) elections, in which a mayor is elected for each comune, though there are usually fewer candidates in the running, with the main players often backed by a coalition of left- or right-wing parties.

You'll find details of each candidates manifesto and upcoming appearances on their party's website, or on the candidates' own social media pages. Italian politicians are often particularly active on Facebook, so it may be worth checking there first for updates.

Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi shows his ballot at a polling station in Milan. Photo: AFP

What powers do local governments have?

While regional and local powers have been expanded temporarily under covid-19 emergency measures, most regional administrations usually answer to the national government in Rome.

The majority of the regions don’t have much power, particularly when compared to federal states such as Germany.

They keep only 20 percent of tax revenue, and the constitution grants them ” legislative powers in all subject matters that are not expressly covered by State legislation”, which in practice doesn't amount to much.

But five regions (Aosta Valley, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol) have special status, meaning their governments have special constitutional powers and greater control over local laws and money.

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

If you look at a map, you'll see these regions all lie on Italy's borders, and the special status helps them preserve cultural differences.

Italy was only unified in 1861, and its 20 administrative regions more or less correspond to the historical regions. Italy is further divided into 110 provinces and almost 8,000 comuni.

This is not the only vote being held in September

The September elections will take place concurrently with the 2020 Italian constitutional referendum, in which voters will be asked whether they approve a constitutional law that amends various aspects of the Italian Constitution – most notably on reducing the number of MPs in parliament, from 630 to 400 in the Chamber of Deputies and from 315 to 200 in the Senate.

For more information on voting rights, see the Italian Interior Ministry's website.


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Italy plans to stop ‘revolving door’ between judges and politicians

Italian lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a planned reform aimed at stopping the 'revolving door' between justice and government, as part of wider changes to the country's creaking judicial system.

Italy plans to stop 'revolving door' between judges and politicians

The proposed reform, which still has to be approved by the Italian Senate in the coming weeks, imposes significant limitations on the number of magistrates, prosecutors and judges looking to go into politics – a frequent move in Italy.

Under the submitted changes, a magistrate wishing to stand for election, whether national, regional or local, will not be able to do so in the region where they have worked over the previous three years.

At the end of their mandate, magistrates who have held elective positions will not be able to return to the judiciary – they will be moved to non-jurisdictional posts at, for example, the Court of Auditors or the Supreme Court of Cassation, according to local media reports.

Furthermore, magistrates who have applied for elective positions but have not been successful for at least three years will no longer be able to work in the region where they ran for office. 

The reform is part of a wider programme of changes to Italy’s tortuous judicial system. This is required by the European Commission to unlock billions of euros in the form of post-pandemic recovery funds.

Public perception of the independence of Italian courts and judges is among the worst in Europe, according to the EU’s justice scoreboard.