Italicum run-off KO'd, bonus OK'd

M5S, League want snap vote,PD wants Mattarellum but 'not scared'

(ANSA) - Rome, January 25 - The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled a run-off envisaged in the Italicum election law was illegitimate but left much of the law including a winner's bonus unchanged, saying it could be applied straight away and leading many parties to press for a fast election. The court ruled legitimate a winner's bonus awarded to any party getting more than 40% of votes.
    The top court declared illegitimate, on the other hand, a part of the Italicum allowing a list head elected in more than one constituency to choose the constituency he wanted to represent.
    The election law that emerges after the publication of the Constitutional Court's sentence on the Italicum law will be immediately applicable, the top court said in its ruling.
    This latter point prompted the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) and the rightist Northern League to demand a snap vote, with M5S leader Beppe Grillo saying 'Habemus Legalicum' and an M5S lawmaker saying a new law could be readied "in two weeks". The ruling centre-left Democratic Party (PD) repeated it was in favour of reviving the former 75% first-past-the-post Mattarellum law but said there could also be a quick vote with the two electoral systems that have emerged from Constitutional Court rulings, the so-called Consultellums and their proportional representation (PR) systems. PD leader Matteo Renzi, the former premier, said there was "no more time to be wasted" and urged parties to debate a new law while deputy leader Lorenzo Gureni reiterated that it was not afraid of fresh elections.
    Former premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI) party, which wants a return to pure PR, came out against a snap vote, stressing that President Sergio Matteralla - the architect of the Mattarellum when he was a minister many years ago - had urged parliament to get to work on harmonising the electoral systems of the two houses of parliament. Grillo hailed the court's quashing the run-off but leaving the winner's bonus, saying "this was our goal to govern". In a blog post titled "Habemus Legalicum", he said "we will present ourselves to voters as always without making alliances with anyone". Grillo said there was an M5S bill enshrining the top court's changes before parliament, and those who were against voting for it "are doing so because they want pocket their pensions in September".
    The M5S's touted future premiership candidate, Luigi Di Maio, said that the House electoral law should be used in the Senate as well and that voting should be held in the spring.
    He added that only "two days are needed to harmonize laws" and that "only M5S" of all parties can aspire to reaching 40% of votes, qualifying for a winner's bonus.
    "The next election will be between old and new parties, between us and them," he said. Another M5S bigwig, Alessandro Di Battista, said the Italicum law as revised by the Constitutional Court "would appear to be immediately applicable" so there should be a snap vote. He said the court ruling showed that the former champions of the law, Renzi and former reforms minister Maria Elena Boschi, "got it all wrong, they should apologise and disappear from the political scene".
    Rightwing populist Northern League leader Matteo Salvini, for his part, tweeted that the court-revised electoral law "is immediately applicable, according to the court. "There are no more excuses: give the word to Italians!! If you agree, relaunch #VOTENOW". Salvini said April 23 was a possible election date.
    Salvini's ally, rightist Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni, said Italy should vote "immediately" using the revised version of the Italicum law that emerged from the court ruling. "There are no longer any excuses," she said, announcing a January 28 rally for a snap vote.
    PD leader Renzi, whose defeat in last month's Constitutional reform referendum left the surviving Senate needing an electoral law while also spurring his resignation, said that "we should stop wasting time, the PD is for the (former) Mattarellum (law), let the parties say now whether they want to debate it. "Otherwise the road is to vote", said Renzi, who is devoting himself to revamping the PD while he is out of office.
    PD House whip Ettore Rosato also stressed the party's support for returning to the Mattarellum and noted that "if parliament does not manage to come to an agreement on this law, we have two different laws for the two houses of parliament: let's use them". "Seeing whether there is political will for the Mattarellum does not take a lot of time," he added, saying that otherwise the "two Consultellums" could be voted on, which are "proportional and homogeneous" electoral laws. Rosato went on to say that "in our opinion, voting should be held immediately", and that the party's line had not changed after the ruling on Italicum. The law as it has been changed by the Constitutional Court can be applied immediately, he said, because it safeguards "the constitutional principle of giving the president the possibility to dissolve the houses of parliament" if necessary.
    PD deputy leader Lorenzo Guerini said the electoral law that has emerged after a Constitutional Court ruling "is broadly homogeneous and immediately applicable". "The PD is not afraid of elections, we're for the Mattarellum and we are willing to have a debate but without wasting time", he said. Asked if June could be an election date, he said "that is a prerogative of the head of State but the PD's position is well-known: we're not afraid of the vote".
    Roberto Speranza, leader of a PD minority said the court ruling meant "the heart of the Italicum has been stripped away".
    He said "our battle against that law, for which I quit as caucus leader, was well-founded. "Now parliament must work, in the necessary timeframe, for an electoral system that respects the two principles of a correct balance between representation and governability" so that "we never again have a parliament of party appointees".
    Chiming with this call for a more considered debate, Berlusconi's FI said: "The ruling definitively cancels the run-off, the flagship of Renzi and Renzism. President Sergio Mattarella was right: the total difference between the House's electoral system and the Senate's requires a decided parliamentary intervention to harmonise the two voting systems".