Parliamentary Elections

March 4, 2018

Result: The right-wing coalition (including The League and Forza Italia) won 37% of votes for the Chamber of Deputies (265 seats out of 630); Five Star Movement gained 32.68% (227 seats); the center-left coalition (led by Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party) received 22.85% of the vote (122 seats); and Free and Equal barely reached the vote threshold with 3.39% (14 seats). The Five Star Movement and the League entered into a coalition headed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Five Star and League leaders Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini both became Deputy Prime Minister, the former serving as Minister of Economic Development, Labour and Social Policies, and the latter as Minister of the Interior.


  • Bicameral parliament in parliamentary republic: Chamber of Deputies (630 members) and Senate (315 members); co-equal houses (perfect bicameralism).
  • Elections held every 5 years (last held in February 2013), mixed voting system: 37% of members elected through direct, first-past-the-post votes in local constituencies, 63% elected though party lists (proportional system);
  • Mixed voting system is based on a 2017 electoral reform known as Rosatellum; experts anticipate it may make future governments less stable unless one party or coalition receives more than 40% of the vote.
  • Parties must win at least 3% of party list votes in both houses to gain a seat, while coalitions must gain at least 10%.
  • Current majority in Chamber: center-left led by Democratic Party (PD); Prime Minister is Paolo Gentiloni (PD); President is Sergio Mattarella (PD).


  • Establishment parties:
    • Democratic Party (PD): center-left; social democracy, pro-labor policies; increasingly restrictive immigration policies; pro-EU; pro-NATO; has suffered recent party defections.
    • Forza Italia (FI): center-right, party of Silvio Berlusconi; Christian democracy; pro-business, tax cuts; limit immigration; pro-EU but advocating for primacy of Italian law over EU law; pro-NATO; seeks positive relations with Russia.
    • Free and Equal (LeU): left-wing, break-away faction of PD formed in December 2017; redistributive tax system, better labor protections; socially progressive; more open immigration policies; pro-EU; limit military interventions and defense spending; improve relations with Russia.
  • Extreme or populist parties:
    • Five-Star Movement (M5S): catch-all populist, anti-establishment party; direct democracy; limit bureaucracy, “great works” to create jobs; restrict immigration; Euroskeptic though no longer calling for exiting the Eurozone; disengage from NATO missions, limit defense spending; lift sanctions on Russia.
    • Lega Nord (LN): far-right; Northern Italian regional party, populist; socially conservative; lower taxes for families and SMEs; anti-immigration; Euroskeptic and anti-Euro; pro-NATO; seeks good relations with Russia.
    • Fratelli d’Italia/Brothers of Italy (FdI): far-right; nationalist, post-fascist; socially conservative; more generous social policies for Italians, pro-birth policies; anti-immigration; Euroskeptic; pro-NATO and increasing defense spending; seeks better relations with Russia.
  • FI, LN, FdI and a small center-right party have entered into a ‘Coalition of the Right’; PD is in a coalition with 3 smaller parties.

Impact on U.S. Interests

  • 3rd largest economy in the Eurozone, 8th largest economy in the world; the U.S. is Italy’s 3rd export destination; two-way trade in goods in 2017 totaled $68.3bn; Italian FDI to U.S. in 2016 reached $30bn;
  • Founding member of the Global Coalition against Daesh, training Iraqi forces and heading the Counter-ISIL Finance Group; 2nd largest troop contributor to Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan (1,037 as of May 2017); will deploy over 400 troops to Niger to counter terrorism in the Sahel;
  • Has received over 600,000 migrants since 2014. Internal borders have been re-instituted between Italy and Austria and France. Italy has signed a controversial agreement with Libyan authorities to prevent migrants from arriving in Italian waters and have maintained an active Mediterranean maritime security presence.

Key Issues to Watch

  • Polls currently suggest a hung parliament and much back-room dealing before a government can be formed; a protracted formation process is made more likely by the election reforms of 2017.
  • Immigration is the prominent issue of the election, and almost all parties have moved toward stricter restrictions on immigration (some defending very extreme positions); an Italian man associated with fascist groups shot six migrants in central Italy in early February.
  • PD’s political fracturing reduces its chances to win more votes than right-wing parties; yet the right-wing coalition suffers from internal divisions as well.
  • Europe and the Eurozone are also prominent issues, as Italy has not fully returned to economic health since the 2008 financial crisis. Heavy debt (€2.3 trillion, or 132% of GDP), €270 billion in non-performing loans, and a fragile banking sector continue to stymie greater economic growth.
  • Russia’s influence also weighs on the election, with a 2016 cyberattack on the foreign ministry attributed to the Kremlin and disinformation campaigns surfacing in late 2017; Italy has been a reluctant supporter of sanctions on Russia following the annexation of Crimea, and many parties running would like to see these sanctions lifted.


Data source: SWG, Index
Data source: SWG, Index
Data source: SWG, Index

Data source: SWG, Index