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Italy - Government and Economy
The parliamentary government in Italy has been based on the Proportional Voting System. The parliament is bicameral; it has two houses – the Chamber of Deputies (also called the Lower House, which meets in the Palazzo Montecitorio) and the Senate of the Republic (or the Upper House, which meets in the Palazzo Madama). Both the houses are elected every five years and have the same powers.
Unlike the UK and the US, the voting system in Italy is based on the Party List system. This means that each party’s candidates are ranked according to their priority. If a party wins 10 seats, its top 10 ranking candidates are selected to take their seats in the parliament.
The Prime Minister of Italy is officially the President of the Council of Ministers as well as the Head of the Government. Both the Cabinet and the Prime Minister are appointed by the President but need to pass a vote of confidence in parliament in order to be elected into the office. As compared to his other counterparts, the Italian Prime Minister may have limited authority. In Italy, the Prime Minister can neither dismiss ministers nor ask for the dissolution of the Parliament. Moreover, the PM needs a Vote of Approval from the Council of Ministers, or the Cabinet, to carry out several political activities. The executive powers lie with the Cabinet and the legislative powers rest with the two parliamentary houses. The Italian Judiciary system is independent of the parliament.
The Head of the State in Italy is the President, who is independent of all the government branches. This means that he does not get involved in day-to-day political activities. However, as the guardian of the Constitution, he can reject any anti-constitutional laws, by refusing to sign them.
The President not only represents the unity of the nation, but has also taken over several duties that were originally handled by the Monarchy. He also serves as the focal point for the three branches of power – getting elected by the lawmakers, appointing an executive, and presiding over the judiciary. The President acts as the commander-in-chief for the Italian armed forces too.
Candidates aspiring to become President of the Republic must be Italian citizens, must be a minimum of 50 years of age, and should hold civil as well as political rights.
The official term for the President of the State is 7 years, and though there is no specific law forbidding re-election, to this day, only one Italian President – Giorgio Napolitano, has been elected for two terms. The President gets elected by the Parliament, in a joint session, with 3 representatives from each region (with the exception of Aosta Valley, which has only 1 representative). During the presidential elections, a candidate requires a wide majority of votes that progressively reduce from two/thirds to more than half after the third ballot. Throughout history, the only candidates to ever be elected as President through the first ballot are Francesco Cossiga and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
The last Italian General Elections were held in February 2013. Voting in Italy is compulsory for all Italian citizens who are over 18 years old. All citizens are automatically registered to vote, as long as they are 18 years or older (on the Election Day). Voting rights may be temporarily revoked for citizens with criminal convictions. All the municipalities in Italy have a register of the residents, as well as a register of eligible voters. This registry is revised every six months and before elections. For maximum transparency in the electoral process, the list of eligible voters can be viewed by everyone. All EU citizens who reside in Italy may also be eligible to vote in certain elections.
One of the factors that differentiate the Italian Parliament from the others is the representation given to Italian citizens who are permanently living abroad. Moreover, the Italian Senate is characterized by a few “senators for life”. These candidates are appointed by the President of the Republic for their outstanding merits in certain fields. Former Presidents of the Italian Republic are life senators, by virtue of their position.
Italy has a diverse industrial economy, characterized by a high per capita GDP and a low rate of unemployment. In the year 2014, according to the World Factbook, The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Italy was ranked as the 8th largest economy across the world, the 4th largest economy in Europe and the EU, the 11th largest economy across the world in terms of Purchasing Power Parity, the 5th largest economy across Europe in terms of Purchasing Power Parity and the 3rd largest economy in the Eurozone in terms of nominal GDP.
This country underwent a rapid transformation from an Agricultural Economy to an Industrial Economy. Today, it is recognized as a developed nation and one of the leading countries when it comes to world trade and exports. Apart from being the world’s largest producer of wine, Italy is famous around the world for its fashion Industry, high-quality automobiles and industrial appliances. The business economy and agricultural sectors are also known for their innovation. Italy’s unemployment rate is 8.5%, one of the lowest in the EU.
The inflation rates in Italy have been in progressive decline since July 2012. After the first quarter of 2014, the National Institute of Statistics recorded Italy’s Inflation rate at 0.37%, which is the lowest across the EU. Inflation rates in this country have fluctuated significantly in the last few decades though, with an all-time high of 25.64% in November 1974, an all-time low of -2.44% in April 1959, and an average of 6.19% from 1958 to 2014.
The benchmark interest rates in Italy have been set by the European Central Bank, as this country is a part of the European Union. The last recorded interest rate in Italy has been 0.25%. The long-term (5 years) interest rate in Italy is 3.40%.
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