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The Italian Senate

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This article analyses the composition and the functions of the Italian Senate. There are 315 senators, three-quarters of them elected in single-member constituencies through a first-past-the-post system, the remaining ones are elected according to the additional member system among the best losers. The voting age for the Senate is 25 and only Italian citizens who are 40 years or older can be elected. All former Presidents of the Italian Republic are life senators - at present two. Moreover, the President may appoint additional life senators among outstanding Italian citizens - at present five. The Italian Senate has the same powers and performs the same functions as the House of Deputies. According to some scholars and politicians, this system accounts for a better legislation; according to the critics, the Italian model of bicameralism is simply old, cumbersome and useless. The Senate provides a number of ministers commensurate to its size, but only one Prime Minister has ever held a seat in the Senate. The most important debates take place in the House of Deputies, but the government may be defeated in the Senate because all Italian governments must enjoy the confidence of both chambers. Though several proposals for the reform of the Senate have been entertained, none has been approved so far. It is unlikely that even the transformation of the Senate into a Chamber representing the regions, along the model of the German Bundesrat, will take place.
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Keywords: Italian politics; bicameralism; electoral systems; institutional reform; senate

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-09-01

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