How Italy’s Government Works: Political Structure, Laws, and Voting

As an expat living in Italy, or someone considering making Italy home, you may have questions about how it all works here. Really, how Italy’s government works? Whether you are interested in understanding the political structure, the process of passing laws, or the voting system, this blog post has got you covered.

Italy’s government system can be complex and confusing, especially for those coming from a different country. And trust me, not even the Italians know what is happening half the time. But don’t worry, this post will give you a start to understanding how this crazy place we call home, works.

Understanding Italy’s Political Structure

To start understanding how Italy’s government works, let’s break down the structure. Italy’s political system is a parliamentary republic, meaning the government is headed by a president who is elected by the Parliament and has limited powers. But actually, that is putting it extremely simply.

Prime Minister Vs. President

In Italy, we have the President of the Republic, and the President of the Council – more commonly referred to as the Prime Minister. The President is largely just a public figure, who often represents Italy as a figurehead. In theory, their role “represents national unity, and guarantees that Italian politics comply with the Constitution.” While we see them a lot, they don’t necessarily influence a lot of day-to-day life in Italy. But overall they are important to know to understand how Italy’s government works.

The Prime Minister on the other hand has a more active role. While the President is the head of state, the prime minister is the head of the Executive branch of Italy’s government. The executive branch is made of the Council of Ministers, and the Prime Minister runs the show. 

The Prime Minister is appointed by the President, but usually, it comes from having a majority in the Parliament, as they need the parliament’s confidence to remain in power. Then the PM can choose their council of ministers.

There are lots of “what about” we could cover on just the executive branch, but let’s move on to cover parliament.

Italian Parliament

The Parliament is made up of two houses – the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, each with different roles and responsibilities. The Chamber of Deputies is made up of 400 members who are elected for a five-year term. 392 of these members were elected from Italians within their respective regions and 8 from Italian citizens living abroad. These members are chosen through a mixed electoral system, with 75% of seats allocated through a proportional representation system and the remaining 25% through a first-past-the-post system. This system aims to provide a balance between political parties and regions in the Parliament. 

(Does it really? Debatable). 

On the other hand, the Senate is made up of 200 members who are elected for a six-year term. Unlike the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate is broken down more “fairly” with each region having a varying number of senators based on its population size. Again here 196 are elected from Italians in Italy and 4 from Italian citizens living abroad

Within the Senate, there is also a special club, chosen by the President, the Senators for Life. What do they get? A special title and fancy meeting spot. Boh.
Let’s get onto the judicial branch before our head spins too much.

An attempt to understand Italian government, thanks to Wikipedia

The Judicial Branch in Italy

Figuring out how Italy’s government works it’s important to also mention the judicial branch. The judicial branch is responsible for interpreting and enforcing laws. It is made up of the Constitutional Court, the Council of State, and other specialized courts. These are elected and appointed by the Parliament. 

Regional Government

In addition to the national government, Italy also has a system of regional and local governments. Italy is divided into 20 regions, each with its own regional government and elected regional council. These regional governments have powers over areas such as healthcare, education, and transportation. Italy also has over 8,000 local governments, including cities, towns, and villages, each with their own elected mayor and council.

Overall, Italy’s political structure is a complex system with multiple branches and levels of government. It aims to provide a balance of power and representation for different regions and political parties in the country. Understanding this structure is important for living or planning to live in Italy, as it affects various aspects of daily life, including laws, policies, and rights.

The Law-Making Process in Italy

Now, if we really want to know how Italy’s government works, the question we are all really wondering is how do laws get passed here. In order for a bill to become a law in Italy, it must go through several stages in both chambers of parliament.

The process begins with the proposal of a bill by members of parliament. The bill is then introduced to the Chamber of Deputies, where it is assigned to a relevant committee for review. The committee may make amendments or revisions to the bill before presenting it to the entire chamber for discussion and voting.

If the bill is approved by the Chamber of Deputies, it is then sent to the Senate for further review and voting. The Senate may also make amendments or revisions to the bill before sending it back to the Chamber of Deputies for final approval.

Once the bill is approved by both chambers of parliament, it is then sent to the President of the Republic for final approval. The President has the power to veto the bill, but this can be overturned by a majority vote in both chambers.

After the bill is signed by the President, it officially becomes a law in Italy. However, this is not the end of the process. The law must then be published in the Official Gazette and implemented by the relevant government agencies.

Things to think about

There are HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of these proposals. Most which never make it past a revision phase. Yet you’ll often see in the news dramatic headlines about “proposed laws”, don’t get too worried, until it makes it past at least one House, it’s nothing.

It is worth noting that this process can be lengthy and complex, and it may take years for a bill to become a law. Additionally, the Italian government operates on a coalition system, meaning that multiple political parties must come to an agreement on the proposed bill before it can move forward.

Hence, things don’t change very quickly.

Overall, the law-making process in Italy is a collaborative effort, involving various stages of review and approval by different branches of the government. This ensures that all voices are considered before a law is passed. (Is this good or bad, well that is up to interpretation.)

How Voting Works in Italy

Voting in Italy allows citizens to have a say in the country’s political decisions and to choose their representatives in the government. But how does voting actually work in Italy?

In Italy, voting is an option for all citizens over the age of 18. But actually they do try to frame it as compulsory. The official law states “Voting is a civic duty’. Failure to vote may be noted on official papers.” Yet to be honest, they don’t much follow up on this threat and Italy has very bad turnout rates.

Before an election, the government prepares a ballot of candidates who are running for office. However, when voting, citizens don’t get to go by individual, they must vote for a party or coalition of parties. 

Another important thing to note is that while adults over 18 may vote for regional elections and Chamber of Deputies, only adults over 24 can vote for the Senate.

The votes are then counted and the results are announced. The party or coalition with the majority of votes in the Chamber of Deputies is invited by the President of the Republic to form a government. If no party or coalition has a clear majority, they must form a coalition with other parties in order to reach a majority.

In addition to national elections, Italy also holds regional and municipal elections. These elections follow a similar process, but the candidates are running for positions in their respective regions or municipalities. Here there is more a focus on individual candidates.

How Italy’s government works: Final Thoughts

As an expat, it is important to understand how Italy’s government works, including its political structure, law-making process, and voting system. With this knowledge, you can understand better why things are a certain way and how life will be in Italy. Of course, much of what goes on might not effect you every day, but in the long run, you’ll want to understand the direction a country is heading.

Italy has a complex political structure with multiple governing bodies and levels of government. The law-making process in Italy is long. Keep in mind next time you see news about new laws, it might be a while before they fully come into effect.

By understanding these key aspects of Italy’s government, you can better appreciate life in Italy. You can also make informed decisions when it comes to participating in the political process, whether it be through voting or advocating for certain policies.

If you are an expat looking to stay in Italy long-term, it’s worth it to stay updated on any changes in the political landscape and be aware of the opportunities and challenges that may arise.

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