Special Issue – Ten years after: a balance sheet of the Italian...

Special Issue – Ten years after: a balance sheet of the Italian primaries


Matteo Renzi and primary elections: a love–hate relationship?
James L. Newell & Maurizio Carbone http://www.tandfonline.com/…/full/10…/23248823.2016.1166691…

As of 12 March 2016, Matteo Renzi has been in office for 749 days, placing his premiership among the half-dozen longest lasting since 1946 and well above the average of 370 days. He can argue that his government has a number of legislative achievements to its credit. They include the so-called Jobs Act which has been welcomed by business and which he can claim (with whatever justification) has been responsible for recent encouraging increases in the rate of employment. And they include seemingly incisive institutional reform, which looks likely to be subject to a popular referendum in October.

Primary elections between fortuna and virtù
Gianfranco Pasquino & Marco Valbruzzi http://www.tandfonline.com/…/…/10.1080/23248823.2016.1147157

Primaries have become an almost indispensable tool of the political game in the Italian centre-left coalition and, especially, within the Democratic Party. This article explores what has led to this important institutional change in the candidate and leadership selection processes. It assesses the consequences with reference to both competition and inclusiveness. It concludes by stressing that, frequent, undocumented and unfounded criticisms notwithstanding, Italian primaries have played, and promise to continue to play, quite a positive role in the Italian political system.

Centre-left Prime Ministerial Primaries in Italy: the laboratory of the ‘open party’ model
Salvatore Vassallo & Gianluca Passarelli http://www.tandfonline.com/…/…/10.1080/23248823.2016.1152005

The 2005 Prime Ministerial Primaries held by the coalition of the centre left were less important for their immediate outcome than they were important as crucial events for the institutionalization of primaries in the process of building the Democratic Party. Those held in 2012 were a second step in the same process. Since the two elections differed significantly and were both ‘exceptional’, we first propose a rational narrative of the political strategies leading up to each of them and of the political dynamics that followed. We also analyse indicators of the level of public interest in such a competition and the candidates’ abilities to mobilize support beyond the party’s traditional electoral constituency. Our central argument is that, since the centre-left Prime Ministerial Primaries achieved the strategic goals of some of their proponents, this particular type of primary should be less frequent in the future, at least on the left of the political spectrum. Even though they did so in very different ways, they both strengthened the project of creating the Democratic Party as an ‘open party’, whose leader is chosen by a broad base of electors in a primary-like competition and is the party’s natural candidate for the premiership.

The regional primary elections in Italy: a general overview
Marino De Luca & Stefano Rombi http://www.tandfonline.com/…/full/10…/23248823.2016.1153827…

Primary elections are frequently used by Italian parties, particularly those of the centre-left. Primaries are used not only at the local and national levels, but also at the regional level. Until 2013, primary elections had been held in a limited number of regions where there were presidential and legislative-assembly elections. The 2014–15 period, however, has seen an explosion in the use of primaries with eight taking place in a few months, almost as many as in the previous 8 years. To these should be added the closed and online primaries of the Five Star Movement. These, given their characteristics, can hardly be compared with the primaries of the centre-left. This article will look at the 17 regional primaries organised by the Italian centre–left parties. We analyse the level of participation of the selectors, the results and the level of competitiveness. Finally, particular attention will be paid to the performances of the primary-election candidates and those of the selected candidates in the subsequent elections. This will help us to understand whether the primaries affected the outcome of the regional elections.

With or without parliamentary primaries? Some evidence from the Italian laboratory
Marta Regalia & Marco Valbruzzi http://www.tandfonline.com/…/full/10…/23248823.2016.1153828…

In the last 10 years, Italy has slowly and quite unexpectedly become the European home of primary elections. On the eve of the 2013 legislative elections, three political parties decided, for the first time, to use primaries as the main method of candidate selection. The aim of this article is to analyse some of the characteristics and consequences of the parliamentary primaries in terms of the socio-demographic composition of Parliament and the behaviour of MPs. The evidence provided by the Italian experience shows that inclusive selectorates seem to promote a higher level of female representation in the assembly and the inclusion of younger people. As far as the legislative behaviour of MPs is concerned, parliamentarians selected through primaries show the highest rates of attendance. Finally, with regard to the level of productivity and the frequency of rebellion, the results of our analysis do not lead to any clear conclusions. However, interestingly enough, MPs selected through inclusive processes demonstrate a lower propensity to vote against the agreed positions of their parliamentary groups.

Primaries at the municipal level: how, how many and why
Giulia Sandri & Fulvio Venturino http://www.tandfonline.com/…/full/10…/23248823.2016.1156306…

In this article, we analyse the mayoral open primaries held from 2004 to 2015. We empirically assess their functioning and their effectiveness, especially in terms of competitiveness and turnout. We also explore the dynamics of diffusion of this instrument of intra-party democracy over time, across parties and across geographical areas. Moreover, we provide an exploratory account of the electoral consequences of mayoral primaries in terms of three dimensions of analysis: the type of municipality in which primaries are held, the features of the primary election contest, and the characteristics of the subsequent mayoral elections. Our results show that local primaries are characterized by two main features: they are fairly institutionalized, and a contagion effect across parties and geographical areas is emerging. In addition, they are quite competitive and our data show that, contrary to popular belief, external and/or more ideologically extreme candidates are less likely to win.

Selecting the leader, Italian style
Luciano M. Fasano & Antonella Seddone http://www.tandfonline.com/…/full/10…/23248823.2016.1156313…

This article examines the promotion of open and direct procedures for selecting party leaders by focusing on the case of Italy. These inclusive procedures are presented as adaptive strategies adopted by political parties to deal with the deep-rooted anti-party sentiments that are spreading among citizens, and to enable them to re-connect with their own supporters, regardless of whether they are formally enrolled in the party or not. Even though these inclusive approaches serve to enhance the party’s image, their impact on the party organisation is often overlooked. In this regard, scholars have argued that the involvement of party members or external supporters in key decisions, such as candidate selection by primary elections, could lead to a weakening of the party organisation in favour of the strength of the party leader. This issue has to be carefully taken into account, especially in light of the personalisation of politics characterising Western democracies. Open approaches to selection of the party leader produce strong, direct connections between selectors and the candidates for party office, but they endanger the cohesion of the party organisation, diminish the role played by the party in central office and marginalise the party on the ground, whose voice is absorbed into a larger selectorate mainly composed of non-members. Taking the Italian Democratic Party (PD) as a case study, this article aims to understand the extent to which the introduction of such inclusive methods may affect the party organisation, by looking at the capacity of the party to mobilise supporters within and outside the party, and by looking at the relationship between the party and its members.

Primaries, parties, people
Gianfranco Pasquino http://www.tandfonline.com/…/full/10…/23248823.2016.1147217…

Italian primary elections are a successful instance of institutional imitation and adaptation. This article argues that, as practised by the Democratic Party, they have contributed to greater transparency of the procedures through which candidates for public office are selected. They have solicited more participation and have been highly attractive to the media. Though often criticized, and though not yet fully understood in terms of their impact, they have been a stable feature of the Democratic Party for more than 10 years. A return to the past seems inconceivable, but improvements to the rules and procedures are possible and advisable.