Courtesy Reuters

Democracy Lives in Italy

ITALY's last parliamentary elections on June 7, 1953, brought about an extremely involved situation. The law under which the elections were held provided for a premium allocation of seats to the coalition of parties polling in excess of 50 percent of the popular vote. In case no party or group of parties obtained an absolute majority, the allocation of seats was to be made-- and in effect was made--through a proportional system, with limited corrections in favor of the major parties at the expense of the minor ones.

As a matter of record, the democratic coalition formed by the Christian Democratic, Social Democratic, Liberal and Republican Parties fell short by a few thousand votes (exactly 57,556) of obtaining an absolute majority. But 1,400,000 ballots were contested and are still under scrutiny by the special parliamentary election committee. This was because the Communist Party, through its representatives in the polling stations, brought forward the largest possible number of legal technicalities in order to contest the validity of the maximum number of ballots. The slightest trace of lipstick on the ballot of a woman voter, the absence of a mark next to the party symbol, even though the voter's preference was clearly shown in the name of the candidate he had inserted in the proper column, enabled Communist representatives to contest a great number of ballots and have these subtracted from the total of votes polled by the centrist coalition.

The Chamber of Deputies thus elected presented the following line-up of parties: Left-wing (Nenni) Socialists and Communists, 218; Centrist Democratic coalition, 304; Monarchist and Neo-Fascist extreme right, 68. The democratic coalition therefore still held an 18-vote majority over the combined opposition, even though it had failed to poll the 50.1 percent which would have entitled it under the law to a premium allocation of seats. In the Senate, too, the center parties had a slight edge.

After this electoral setback it was natural and understandable that the parties of the democratic coalition, especially the lay parties which had been allied with the

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