Foreigners get the vote

Non-italian residents given right to vote in Italy’s first primaries

Carla Rossi
October 6, 2005

The political scene is heating up here in Italy as the countdown begins for the 2006 elections. The convoluted debates, internal factioning, and heavy accusations, have already begun as candidates and their parties begin vying for voter’s support to win the next 5-year run as Prime Minister. And in a novel attempt to gain voter support, the centre-left coalition “L’Unione” has decided to hold primary elections, a part of the election process that has never been applied before in Italy.


Because these primary elections are a sort of optional addition brought forth by the Unione coalition, they have also taken the liberty to include voters who would not normally be allowed to participate in the Italian electoral process. Non-Italian citizens who have resided in Italy for at least three years are now being given the chance to have their say, and to vote for who they would like to see run in the general elections against current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.  


The primaries are set to be held on October 16, 2005. Candidates for the centre-left primaries include Romano Prodi, an independent and by far the most favoured contender; Fausto Bertinotti, for the Refounded Communist Party (Rifondazione Comunista), and the likely runner-up; Percoraro Scanio, for the Green Party (Verdi), Ivan Scalfarotto, another independent contender residing abroad himself; Clemente Mastella, UDEUR, probably the most conservative candidate running for the coalition; Simona Panzino, No-Global or “Disobeddienti”, the most radical candidate within the coalition; and Antonio Di Pietro, one the founding members of the “Italia dei valori” movement.


Romano Prodi is considered a shoe-in for the candidacy, and many consider the primaries a novelty that serves more as a way to get voters active for the general elections, than a seriously contended race between candidates.


According to Italian law the general elections must take place by June of the election year, but, for now, there is still no specific date. Though the centre-right coalition has still not decided whether to hold primaries as well, many members are calling for anticipated elections after watching the dramatic change of events that took place during Germany’s recently anticipated elections. 


If you are not an Italian citizen and would like to vote in the primary elections you must register by October 7 at one of the locations that have been set up in Florence (see Box).


Once registered, foreigners will be allowed to vote on Sunday, October 16, from 8 to 22.00, at any voting poll within one’s area of residence. Voters will be required to show an identification card, subscribe to the centre-left coalition’s “Project for Italy: the principles and the actions of the Union”, as well as pay a “symbolic” 1 euro fee to help pay for the organisational costs of the 2005 Primaries. There will be 820 polling places opened throughout Tuscany on October 16, and once registered, it only takes finding the polling area closest to home in order to get a vote in.


Though the thought of jumping into Italian politics may be daunting, the right to vote is always a right worth using. Since this is the first time in Italy that non-Italian residents will be allowed to vote, turnout will be closely watched and the results may help determine whether foreigners right’s to vote will be taken into serious consideration for future elections.


Even though organizing the foreign vote for the primaries has been, at best, slow and chaotic, Florence’s Council of Foreigners (see “Consiglio degli stranieri” in Box below) is doing the best it can to get word out to foreign residents that they can and should participate in the primaries. After years of struggling for the right to vote in Italy, foreign council members believe that this is an opportunity to make the importance of the immigrant’s vote felt. As Senegalese council member, Assane Kebe put it, “It is important to participate in manybecause this would have a strong impact on the possibility of immigrants’ rights to vote in the future”. This is a chance to show Italian politicians “the weight that the immigrant vote could have on Italian politics”.  The Foreign Council members put less importance on which candidate to actually vote for than they do on the idea that a positive turn out in these primaries can only mean further breakthroughs in voting rights for non-Italians in the future.


Voter Registration locations in Florence:


ARCI: Piazza dei Ciompi, 11.

During business hours until Oct. 5

Circolo Vie Nuove,Viale Giannotti, 13.

Tel: 055/683388

Voter Information (DS): 339 8195915

Consiglio degli Stranieri: 055 2768608

Francesca Dell’Aria (secretary)

e-mail: [email protected]

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