Volume 10, Issue 1, June 2015


Electoral Studies in Italy and Abroad.
A tribute to Aldo Di Virgilio

By Stefania Panebianco and Francesco Zucchini, IPS Co-Editors

In the book edited by the past-President of the Società Italiana di Scienza Politica, Gianfranco Pasquino, with Marta Regalia and Marco Valbruzzi, Quarant’anni di scienza politica in Italia [Il Mulino, Bologna: 2013], Political Science in Italy has been compared to «a lady in her forties, rather immature, similar to a 40-year old child».

However, some subfields are more active than others in establishing research institutes, belonging to international research networks, and being well embedded in society. Studies on party politics, elections, electoral systems, electoral behaviour, represent a few of these subfields.

The n. 1/2015 issue is dedicated to these research subfields and intends to pay a tribute to Aldo Di Virgilio, a beloved colleague who devoted his research activities mainly to electoral competition, electoral systems, political parties, electoral participation, pre-electoral coalitions, and candidates’ selection. His premature passing away induced us to depict the state of the art of these fields of studies with some of the friends and colleagues who had the chance to work alongside Aldo. Namely, the contributors to this special issue are: Roberto Cartocci, Alessandro Chiaramonte and Roberto D’Alimonte, Mario Caciagli, Paola Bordandini, Andrea Pedrazzani and Luca Pinto, Bernard Dolez and Annie Laurent, Daniela Giannetti, Steven R. Reed, Rossana Sampugnaro, and Luciano Bardi.

The list of contributors is obviously not exhaustive, nor does this special issue intend to cover all the research topics addressed by Aldo Di Virgilio. We aim to attract the IPS readership’s attention to a branch of Political Science that is directly related to our everyday life as electors and citizens – more or less informed and/or politically committed.

Following the path of Aldo’s research agenda, these are the questions addressed by this IPS issue: Where do we stand? What have we achieved? And what’s next? On the one hand, electoral studies and party politics are consolidated research areas of Italian Political Science, but on the other the evolving political panorama, the blurred boundaries between political movements and political parties, the changing meaning of the left-right axis, the electoral reforms, rising protests and polarizing political campaigns suggest further investigation and exchange of views with international research groups.

In memoriam of Aldo Di Virgilio
Roberto Cartocci (University of Bologna)

Aldo Di Virgilio has left us almost on tiptoe. It is not far-fetched to consider that it all occurred precisely in the style he had made his own: with discretion and a sense of measure. Hence, the surprise and dismay that struck his many friends and colleagues who had not yet learned the news of his illness. But even those who were closest to him, as I was, and knew of the uphill battle he was fighting could not imagine such a swift epilog. […]

The field of electoral systems research in international and Italian political science
Alessandro Chiaramonte (University of Florence) and Roberto D’Alimonte (LUISS Guido Carli, Rome)

The study of electoral systems and their consequences has a long history. It goes back as far as to Plinius the elder, and less far away to the Marquis de Condorcet, or to mathematicians like Borda, d’Hondt, and St. Laguë, or to politicians like Hamilton, Jefferson, and Hare. However, according to Riker, only in the 1950s this field of research gained a scientific status thanks to the work of Duverger. It is Duverger, in fact, the first scholar who conducted an extensive and rigorous empirical analysis on the effects of electoral systems on parties and party systems, leading to two (originally three) general propositions, which would later become known as his “law” and his “hypothesis”. […]

The Local Elections
Mario Caciagli (formerly at University of Florence)

In spite of 40 years of intensive development of electoral studies in Italy, the local elections have remained, for a long time, almost neglected. The first work on the Italian local elections was from a Briton, Roy Price. Only in the 1990s, as a consequence of the electoral system reform of 1993 for both municipalities and provinces, did scholars take a keen interest in this field of research. […]

National Party Delegates
Paola Bordandini (University of Bologna)

National party delegates are not just simply party members, but activists with a long political militancy. In many cases, these are people with a certain social visibility, thanks to organizational or elective positions in politics and local-level associations, and therefore, frequently, pivotal members of the civic and party communities. They are figures who can shed light on the relationship between not only parties and society, but also local party units and the central organization. In fact, party delegates can be considered privileged witnesses who experience from within the parties’ transformations induced from without. […]

The study of political candidates
Andrea Pedrazzani and Luca Pinto (University of Bologna)

Although there exists a wide range of views about what democracy means, there is a general consensus in defining democratic regimes in terms of regular, free and fair elections. In many countries, parties are the primary actors in organizing elections, so that a widely accepted statement in political science affirms that they “created democracy and that modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of the parties”. Parties define the rules governing the electoral competition and control the recruitment of candidates for elective offices, hence determining the distribution of power and the identity of political elites, and finally shaping the chain of democratic accountability that links citizens and elected representatives. […]

Party Coordination in Legislative Elections: Comparing France and Italy
Bernard Dolez (Université de Paris 1) and Annie Laurent (Université du Droit et de la Santé Lille 2)

There are people, such as Aldo Di Virgilio, who are able to combine human and scientific qualities. We witnessed this uniqueness during our scientific collaboration with him which started some years ago, and continued until his untimely death. We had the opportunity to experience Aldo’s noble qualities during informal discussions held at various conferences. Regular cooperation with him, which took place over recent years, allowed us to see how much Aldo truly was a “gentleman researcher”. […]

Political Parties in the Legislative Arena: Party Switching and Beyond
Daniela Giannetti (University of Bologna)

Aldo Di Virgilio’s main research interests revolved around the study of political parties as crucial actors in democratic politics. Several of his publications dealt with party organization, party competition, and more recently with party behaviour in the legislative arena, using Italy as a case study. This brief note, which will focus on the party switching literature, will highlight Aldo’s contributions to the study of legislative parties in parliamentary systems. […]

Comparing Japanese and Italian Politics: A Personal Quest
Steven R. Reed (Chuo University)

Like many others in the field, my goal in studying political science is to make political science more scientific. Yet my idea of how to become “more scientific” seems to differ from the norm. The problem arose in high school when my plane geometry class failed to impress. Making deductions from ad hoc assumptions about imaginary concepts still does not seem like science to me. I also find the search for the structure of DNA and Darwin’s epiphanies in the Galapagos Islands as exciting as Galileo peering through a telescope. […]

MPs elected abroad: selection, strategies and programs
Rossana Sampugnaro (University of Catania)

Since the adoption of the “Tremaglia” law to the last general election, enough time has passed to enable an initial assessment of the “foreign” constituency phenomenon. The regulatory framework has changed radically in the last 20 years: from the “Moschini-Armella” law to the present day, procedures have enforced the opportunities of political participation within representative institutions for Italian citizens abroad. In this context, a first decisive step was the setting up of representative bodies for Italian Communities. Later, in 2001, the “Tremaglia” law further expanded the space for participation: it instituted a new constituency (Circoscrizione Estero) for Italian emigrants and introduced postal voting in general elections and referendums. […]

Parties and Elections in the European Union
Luciano Bardi (University of Pisa — EUI-RSCAS Observatory on Political Parties and Representation)

The development of political parties at the European Union (EU) level is closely intertwined with the history of the European Parliament’s (EP) elections. Academics and practitioners have discussed this relationship for more than three decades, i.e., at least since the first direct EP elections in 1979. Initially, the focus was not on parties, but essentially on elections. Since inception, these were deemed to be “different” from national-level parliamentary elections and significantly more problematic, mostly because of unsatisfactory electoral participation levels and of the “second order” nature and relevance of EP elections and campaigns in the Member States (MS). However, it was assumed that elections could only be beneficial for the development of an EU-level party system, and, ultimately, for EU democracy. […]

Book Reviews Coordinated by Stefania Panebianco

Ingrid van Biezen, On parties, party systems and democracy. Selected writings of Peter Mair
Reviewed by Luciano Bardi (University of Pisa, and EUI-RSCAS Observatory on Political Parties and Representation)

Nicola Genga, Il Front National da Jean-Marie a Marine Le Pen. La Destra Nazional-populista in Francia
Reviewed by Nicolò Conti (Unitelma Sapienza University of Rome)

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