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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
ABC of the Italian election
Francesco Rutelli
Francesco Rutelli: On the campaign trail in Sardinia
The Italian election is being contested by two broad coalitions of the centre-left and the centre-right, each with its own prime ministerial candidate.

Billionaire businessman Silvio Berlusconi, aged 64, is the candidate for the centre-right Freedom House coalition, built around his Forza Italia party.

The former Mayor of Rome, 47-year-old Francesco Rutelli, is the candidate for the centre-left Olive Tree coalition, which has been in power for the last five years.

Both are aiming for a majority of seats in the two houses of parliament, the 630-seat chamber of deputies, and the 315-seat senate.

Coalition members

Three quarters of members of each house are elected by a first-past-the-post system in local constituencies, the remainder by proportional representation.

The parties in the Freedom House coalition include:

  • Forza Italia - the second-largest party in the outgoing parliament
  • National Alliance - far-right party headed by Gianfranco Fini
  • Northern League - party headed by Umberto Bossi seeking devolution for northern regions
  • Christian Democratic Centre - centre-right offshoot of defunct Christian Democracy party
  • Christian Democratic Union - another offshoot of Christian Democracy with close ties to the Vatican

The parties in the Olive Tree coalition include:

  • Democrats of the Left - social democratic successor to the Italian Communist Party
  • Democrats - centrist party founded by ex-prime minister Romano Prodi, which counts Francesco Rutelli as a member
  • Party of the Italian Communists
  • Democratic Union for Europe - small centrist party of former Christian Democrats
  • Italian Renewal - small centrist party founded by the foreign minister of the outgoing government, Lamberto Dini

Local elections will be held at the same time as the parliamentary vote.

Mayors

President Ciampi
President Ciampi: Holds consultations on choice of Prime Minister
Five provinces - Mantova, Pavia, Ravenna, Lucca and Imperia - will be electing provincial presidents and councils.

Municipal elections will be held in 1,276 towns, including Rome, Milan, Turin and Naples.

The most closely watched context will be in Rome, where Democrats of the Left leader Walter Veltroni is competing with centre-right candidate Antonio Tajani to succeed Francesco Rutelli.

Post-election

After the election the two houses of parliament will elect speakers and the members will form floor groups.

President Carlo Azegil Ciampi will consult with the speakers, floor groups and former presidents, on whom to offer the prime ministership.

He is under no constitutional obligation to favour the prime ministerial candidate put forward by the winning coalition.

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