Each voter can cast three ballots: two for the lower house; one for the Senate. The new system involves radical changes and every effort has been made to ensure everyone understands how to vote. This has included regular public information broadcasts.
For 475 of the 630 seats of the Camera dei Deputati, or the lower house, the country has been divided into 475 collegi, or constituencies, each consisting of 90,000 voters. Voters use their first vote (on pink ballot papers) for a lower house candidate. The candidate who gets the most votes in each constituency will be elected. So 75 per cent of the seats will be decided on a first-past-the-post system.
The remaining 155 seats in the Chamber of Deputies will be assigned under the old proportional representation system. For these seats, voters use their second ballot paper (grey). The same constituencies are involved, but electors can choose up to four names.
The same percentages (75 per cent first past the post and 25 per cent proportional representation) also apply for elections to the Senate. Voters make only one preference (on yellow papers). There are 232 collegi, each of which contains 180,000 voters, and 315 seats are being contested.
After the assignment of the 75 per cent quota by direct election, making up 232 seats, the remaining 25 per cent (or 83 senate seats) will be decided by those candidates who are the best placed of the rest. It will be worked out on the basis of 20 regions following different district boundaries.
The outcome will ensure the same structure as for the lower house. In the Senate vote, parties require a 4 per cent share nationally to qualify for the seats distributed on a proportional basis.
On 28 February, under a new law, party political campaigning on television was banned in the run-up to the vote. The same law halted opinion polls, with effect from 9 March. After the campaign closed officially on Friday, party canvassing was also banned.
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