Polling stations in Italy opened at 7am local time on Sunday as millions of citizens were urged to take part in partial administrative elections and to express their views on five justice-related issues that had been put to a nationwide referendum.
This time, nearly 9 million Italians will have to re-elect mayors and councillors in 978 towns and villages. These cover 26 provincial centres, including the main cities of the country’s four regions – Genoa (Liguria), L’Aquila (Abruzzo), Palermo (Sicily) and Catanzaro (Calabria).
Under current Italian law, mayors are elected by direct vote, and in cities with more than 15,000 inhabitants, a candidate must win 50% plus one vote to win. If this does not happen, the mayor’s name will be determined in the second round on 26 June, when the two candidates with the best results in the first round will be on the ballot paper.
The last time administrative elections were held in Apennines was in October 2021. At that time, political observers focused on the power struggle in the country’s four largest cities – Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin. This time the stakes in the political game are not as high, but nevertheless this election will undoubtedly be an important electoral test for Italy’s entire political system ahead of the 2023 general election.
18 of the 26 provincial centres where mayors will be re-elected on Sunday are currently governed by centre-right coalition parties. Analysts also note that the current vote will be particularly important for the Five Star Movement and its new leader, former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, who will face a difficult decision regarding future political alliances.
Simultaneously with Sunday’s elections, five referendums on justice issues are taking place across the country, initiated by the right-wing League and the Radical Party. Theoretically, 51.5 million people could take part in the vote. According to Article 75 of the Italian Constitution, referendums will only be considered valid if more than half of the citizens eligible to vote take part.
However, many local analysts are rather sceptical about this. The point is that the popular vote concerns certain technical-administrative issues that have little relevance for the ordinary voter. These include the rules for the creation of the Supreme Judicial Council, the system of judicial evaluations, the specifics of the careers of judges and prosecutors, and the practice of pre-trial detention.
In other words, voters are now given the right to have their say on issues that parliamentarians and experts have failed to resolve over the years in the protracted judicial reform.
The results of the referendums will be tabulated immediately after the polling stations close at 23.00 local time. Counting of votes cast in administrative elections will not begin until Monday afternoon.
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