Changes to representation of citizens in the Italian Parliament

On 20 and 21 September 2020, Italian voters cast their ballots in a referendum to amend the Italian Constitution. The core issue put to popular vote – to reduce the number of Members of Parliament from 630 to 400 in the Chamber of Deputies and from 315 to 200 in the Senate – had already been approved by the Italian Parliament in 2019.

In this referendum, almost 51 million Italians had the right to vote. Most of the electorate – 46.5 million are resident in Italy and cast their vote in person, while the 4.5 million Italians living abroad could request a postal vote.  The overall voter turnout was 51.12 per cent – 53.84 per cent among the resident population, and 23.30 among the non-resident one. The proposed amendments to articles 56, 57, and 59 of the Italian Constitution have been approved in all Italian regions and abroad. While these amendments do not alter the competences of the Italian legislature, they do bring about changes in how Italian citizens are represented in these institutions.

Changes to article 56 entail a decrease in the number of MPs in the Chamber of Deputies from 630 to 400. This decrease means that, in principle, each MP will represent 143,000 Italian citizens instead of 100,000. Exceptions to this include (1) seats assigned to the overseas constituencies (with number of representatives chosen by vote from abroad lowered from 12 to 8, each seat will represent 0.56 million Italians) and (2) smallest electoral districts, such as   Aosta Valley, which will keep their one seat to avoid under-representation.

In a similar vein, the amended version of Article 57 reduces the number of Senators from 315 to 200, with the ratio of Senators per 1 million inhabitants down to 3 from 5. The minimum number of Senators in each region is three (previously seven), with the exception of Molise and Aosta Valley, which will have two and one senators, respectively. The number of seats assigned to the overseas constituencies is reduced from six to four; hence once Senator representing slightly over a million Italians abroad.

Finally, constitutional amendments to article 59 set a limit of five to the number of Senators  for life who can be appointed by the President of the Republic “for outstanding patriotic merits in the social, scientific, artistic or literary field”. Previously, the Italian Constitution did not set any ceilings, and up to eight had been appointed during a presidential term. Currently, there are six Senators for life, who serve in addition to the elected senators.

The various changes to the representation of Italian citizens brought about by these amendments will be applied in the next general election, scheduled to take place by 28 May 2023.

The featured picture for this news item represents the swearing-in of President Mattarella before the Chamber on 4 February 2015. The original can be found here.