Commentary. Despite the hostilities between Salvini and Meloni, the center-right is coming to the polls with only one coalition, while the center-left has at least three, which will be the death of each other in uninominal constituencies.

The September 25 election is a referendum to save the Constitution

Voting should be an occasion for democratic joy; instead, it has become more and more dispiriting. Starting with the Porcellum system, an electoral law with both fixed lists and multiple candidatures that take away any semblance of free choice from the voter. Its majoritarian orientation overvalues the votes of the winner and devalues the votes for the losers: the constitutional principle of equal votes becomes a dead letter. Reducing the number of parliamentarians thins out minorities even further and magnifies the majoritarian effect.

No matter what political program one has, the decisive element is to build a coalition that would put on the appearance of solidity until the polls close. This is all the more necessary to prevail in more than a third of the available seats, which are elected in the uninominal system. In those constituencies, there is no proportional distribution of the votes obtained: whoever prevails by even one vote is the sole representative of the constituency.

The center-right is succeeding in covering up internal differences and presenting itself as united; the center-left, on the other hand, excels at division. There is little point to go through all the particulars. Now, despite the hostilities between Salvini and Meloni, the center-right is coming to the polls with only one coalition, while the center-left has at least three, which will be the death of each other in uninominal constituencies.

The current prediction is that the center-right could win most of thoses. Even in regions of historical center-left dominance, it becomes more difficult to win in the uninominal system. Experts have long explained to us that voting in the uninominal election has a trickle-down effect on how people vote in the multi-nominal elections. This could allow the center-right to win two-thirds of the seats. That’s more than just a nice number. A constitutional reform passed with two-thirds of the vote in Parliament would not be subject to a referendum.

A victorious center-right could impose a presidential republic and differentiated regionalism without citizens having any say. Not to even mention the erosion of rights that a sovereignist and populist majority would immediately begin to enact.

What to do? Stand by and watch the expected and inevitable rout? In uninominal constituencies, center-left voters are faced with a dramatic choice. Vote for the groups that best meet their ideal aspirations, or vote for the coalition that is better able to win than the others? The perverse electoral laws and majoritarian direction have weakened the very concept of representation: people no longer vote to be represented, but to give someone, with a useful vote, a chance to govern. How illusory this expectation is can be shown by recent experience. But the current situation, with the unexpected and now looming September 25 elections, confronts us with a choice with much higher stakes than an instrumental useful vote.

We need to vote according to the fact that we are in an absolute constitutional emergency to avert a two-thirds success of the center-right. It is necessary that the coalition led by the PD, with the Left and the Greens, the only one capable of fighting for uninominal constituencies on equal terms with the center-right, should achieve significant success. For many citizens, voting for them feels like a surrender of their own sovereignty, their own preferences; a tough pill to swallow.

One can imagine the torrent of criticism that this proposal will encounter in the public discourse. For instance: are we really supposed to entrust safeguarding the Constitution to a party that just a few years ago tried to distort it with the Renzi-Boschi reform? But the imminent danger is not addressed by rehashing the past. What matters more to us: the temporary success of our favorite group, or the integrity of the Constitution?

It is a tough test, but there is a looming question whose answer depends on how much we are able to make that painful choice: will the center-right govern only with a restrained majority, or will it be the absolute arbiter of our constitutional destiny? Being forced to vote strategically is dispiriting, but let us make a promise to ourselves: this is really the last time. For next time we want an electoral law worthy of the name, one would ensure our equal right to vote. It is our last-ditch hope.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!