Candidates for public office are part of the politically “active minority” that serves as a fundamental link between voters and the ruling class. The selection of candidates can also define the traits of the political personnel in the major political institutions and, more in general, the very nature of democratic representation. The study of candidates is particularly interesting in case of the 2018 Italian elections, as it allows to understand the extent at which Italian citizens are willing to run for office despite a negative climate towards politics as well as parties’ choices under the new mixed electoral system – the so-called “Rosato law”.
The paper investigates a number of key characteristics of the Italian candidates running for a seat in the Chamber of Deputies in 2018 and compares them with those who stood for office in the past elections from 1976 onward. In particular, we focus on the following aspects: the overall number of candidacies and party lists, the use of multiple candidacies by different parties, and some relevant traits of candidates such as their age, gender and past experience as candidates.
Results highlight the impact of the new electoral institutions, as in 2018 the overall number of Italian candidates and lists has decreased if compared to the 2013 elections. However, the new rules have not substantially reduced the number of those who run for office without any reasonable possibility to obtain a parliamentary seat. In addition, the population of Italian would-be deputies has become more balanced in terms of gender albeit not younger, and the turnover rate among Italian candidates seems to be somewhat lower than in 2013. Furthermore, moving from 2013 to 2018, the leaders of Italian parties have made a more moderate use of multiple candidacies as a tool for controlling party members. In the last elections, multiple candidacies have been employed mostly for safeguarding the election of some prominent politicians.