Democratic Representation, Italy’s new dilemma

When analysing the modern democratic state, one of the most important things to take into consideration is representation.

Democracies’ basic concept is the representation of the needs of the many in the legislative body through an elected elite of people which should reflect as much as possible the general population.

Democracies come in different shapes and forms, as parliamentary, presidential and semi-presidential, therefore the number of representatives varies a lot across the many nations which have adopted this particular political shape.

From the above-mentioned statement, it seems that, speaking about the number of representatives, the more is the better but the reality is not so easy and clear.

Certainly, the representatives cannot be too few, otherwise the power would be too concentrated and they would not reflect the general population. However, the number cannot be too large, as bigger parliaments often are characterized by higher levels of perceived corruption and “red tape”, barriers not permitting the entry of new enterprises.

Bigger parliaments also carry higher fixed costs in the onerous machine of the public administration, however, on the other hand, the general consensus agrees that a higher spending for a much more efficient political apparatus is a good trade-off.

This article proposes a particular focus on the Italian system because on the 20th and 21st of September a confirmative referendum will take place in order to approve or reject the bill passed by the Parliament, published on the “Gazzetta Ufficiale” on the 12th of October 2019 regarding the changes to articles 56, 57, 59 of the Constitution. These articles lay down the number of Parliament and Senate members and of the so-called “senatori a vita”, a selected number of citizens who are regarded as experts and important contributors to the social, economic, artistic and scientific fields of the country.

Currently, the combined number of Parliament and Senate provides for 945 members (630+315); if people decide to vote in order to approve the bill, the number will be reduced to 600 (400+200).

Parties which advocate for the passing of the bill claim that it will streamline the operations as there will be less pointless discussions on laws and that the state will save 60/80 millions per year, which can be reinvested in other initiatives.

Parties pushing for voting “no” are of the opinion that this change will reduce representativeness and that, in the long run, the Parliament could lose its status and power.

As of today, in Italy there is 1 representative every 63,000 people, meaning that we have one of the largest numbers of elected representatives in the world, together with France; other European states have higher ratios, such as Germany’s one of 104,000.

Tommaso Celani

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