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Analysis. Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi won the Italian Democratic Party primary. Past experience may be a guide to how the real election will go.

After Italian primary vote, the real winner is apathy

These are the official percentages of the Italian Democratic Party primaries on Sunday: 70.01 percent for Renzi, 19.50 percent for Orlando and 10.49 percent for Emiliano. The outgoing secretary is back thanks to 1.2 million votes, which are more or less those he had gotten when he challenged Bersani in 2012, when he was clearly defeated. This time, thanks to abstention — up to half in some regions (Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Marche) — it was a triumph for Renzi.

The official data had not been released until Wednesday night because of protests from Orlando’s supporters. The votes in Campania were still pending Thursday, because the Naples prosecutor has opened a file on complaints of fraud at the Ercolano poll station. According to videos documented by Fanpage, immigrants were driven to vote for Renzi. There are also other appeals by supporters of Orlando in Caserta and Baronissi.

Meanwhile, the relationship between the votes cast at the last elections — 2008 and 2013 — and the number of participants in the primaries in the previous year open disturbing scenarios for the Democratic Party. The ratio has remained more or less constant.

The primaries of reference are those of October 2007, when Veltroni won over Bindi and Letta, and in December 2012, the second round of the primary coalition. At that point, it was restricted to two candidates of the Democratic Party, Bersani and Renzi.

For each voter registered in the primaries, the Democratic Party gathered little more than three in the national elections the following year. To be precise, for each participant in the primaries of 2007, the Democratic Party collected 3.4 votes in 2008, when Veltroni led the party to earn 12 million voters (but it was defeated by Berlusconi’s coalition). And in 2013, it got 3.1 “real voters” (when Bersani’s Democratic Party stood at 8,646,000 votes, neither winning nor losing) compared to the 2012 primaries.

It isn’t unreasonable to assume this trend will continue. If it does, the 1,848,000 voters on Sunday could turn into 5.7 million for the Democratic Party by 2018 (worst case scenario) or 6.3 million (best case scenario).

However, this is still a bleeding of votes.

The forecast does not change too much when we apply the conversion of votes at the primaries into “real” votes between 2013 and 2014, which were Renzi’s two triumphal moments: the victory at the primaries over Bersani and the subsequent European elections. Then, for every voter in the primaries, 3.9 actually showed up at the polls to vote for the Democratic Party, which means that, at best, 1.8 million votes at the primaries can convert into 7.3 million real votes.

But it is a strained comparison, both for the type of election (European versus political) and for the political moment (it was the dawn of Renzism). We mention as a confirmation that, even if we want to predict the best outcome for the Democratic Party, the forecasts based on the number of participants in the primaries Sunday remain bleak. Too few attended the polls. Renzi cannot hope, based on the previous examples, to replicate the more than 8.5 million votes against Bersani in 2013.

These calculations are rough, since we don’t even know which electoral law will apply to the next elections. Obviously, the law will have an influence on voters’ choices. But if you want to have fun and make a prediction of the percentage the Democratic Party can gather in the next election, it is not expected it will go above 7 million votes. But in order to reach this conclusion, we need to make another prediction, the number of valid votes.

Also in this case, based on the historical trend, we can imagine that if the disaffection of voters continues to grow following the trend line set from 2006 to 2008 and then to 2013, around 31 million valid votes will be cast in the next elections.

The Democratic Party, then, could achieve 22 or 23 percent, not much more. That is, in percentage terms, lower than the Democratic Party led by Bersani (which reached 25.5 percent by itself and 29.5 percent in the coalition). And, above all, far from the majority premium, no matter how it is placed.

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