Italian general election, 1996

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Italian general election, 1996
1994 ←
21 April 1996 → 2001

All 630 seats in the Italian Chamber of Deputies
315 seats in the Italian Senate
Turnout 82.88%
  First party Second party Third party
  Romano Prodi crop.jpeg Silvio Berlusconi 1994.jpg Umberto Bossi 1994.jpg
Leader Romano Prodi Silvio Berlusconi Umberto Bossi
Party Independent Forza Italia Lega Nord
Alliance The Olive Tree Pole for Freedoms
Leader's seat Bologna East Milan Centre Milan Centre (lost)
Last election 259 & 153 seats, 34.4% 273 & 114 seats, 42.8% 11 & 8 seats, 8.4%
Seats won 322 (C)
169 (S)
246 (C)
116 (S)
59 (C)
27 (S)
Seat change Increase 63 Decrease 26 Increase67
Popular vote 16,924,099 15,095,436 3,776,354
Percentage 45.4% 43.2% 10.1%
Swing Increase 11.0% Increase 0.4% Increase1.3%

Italian Election 1996 Province.png

Legislative election results map. Red denotes provinces with a Democratic Socialist plurality, Azure denotes those with a Forza Italia plurality, Blue denotes those with a National Alliance plurality, Green denotes those with a Lega Nord plurality, Yellow denotes those with a Populars plurality, Cyan denotes those with a Christian Democratic plurality.

Prime Minister before election

Lamberto Dini

Elected Prime Minister

Romano Prodi
The Olive Tree

A snap national general election was held in Italy on 21 April 1996 to elect members of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic. Romano Prodi, leader of the centre-left coalition The Olive Tree, won the election, narrowly defeating Silvio Berlusconi, who led the Pole for Freedoms centre-right coalition.

For the election, the Lega Nord of Umberto Bossi ran alone, after having left the Berlusconi I Cabinet in 1994, causing a crisis which drove President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro to appoint a technocratic cabinet led by Lamberto Dini, which in turn lost its Parliamentary support in 1995, forcing Scalfaro to dissolve the Italian Parliament. The Communist Refoundation Party, led by Fausto Bertinotti, instead made a pre-electoral alliance with The Olive Tree, presenting its own candidates, supported by Prodi's coalition, mainly in some safe leftist constituencies, in exchange for supporting Olive Tree candidates on the other ones, and ensuring external support for a Prodi government.

Electoral system[edit]

The intricate electoral system of Italy, nicknamed as Mattarellum (after Sergio Mattarella, who was the official proponent), provided a 75% of the seats on the Chamber of Deputies (the Lower House) as elected by a plurality voting system, whereas the remaining 25% was assigned by proportional representation with a minimum threshold of 4%. If possible, the method associate on the Senate was even more complicated: 75% of seats by uninominal method, and 25% by a special proportional method that actually assigned the remaining seats to minority parties.

General election[edit]


In December 1994, following the communication of a new investigation from Milan magistrates that was leaked to the press, Umberto Bossi, leader of the Lega Nord, left the coalition claiming that the electoral pact had not been respected, forcing Berlusconi to resign from office and shifting the majority's weight to the centre-left side. Lega Nord also resented the fact that many of its MPs had switched to Forza Italia, allegedly lured by promises of more prestigious portfolios.

Berlusconi remained as caretaker prime minister for a little over a month until his replacement by a technocratic government headed by Lamberto Dini. Dini had been a key minister in the Berlusconi cabinet, and Berlusconi said the only way he would support a technocratic government would be if Dini headed it. In the end, however, Dini was only supported by most opposition parties but not by Forza Italia and Lega Nord.

In December 1995 Dini resigned as Prime Minister and the President of the Republic, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, decided to begin consultations to form a government, substained by all the parties in the Parliament to make constitutional reforms. Favourably to this proposal sided both, in a TV debate on 19 January 1996, Silvio Berlusconi and Democratic Party of the Left leader Massimo D'Alema. Although there were many problems on this theme in both coalition: in fact Gianfranco Fini and Romano Prodi wanted a snap election, not sure that the reforms would be helpful for the country. On 16 February 1996, a snap election was called.


On 19 February 1996, the outgoing Prime Minister Lamberto Dini announced that he would run in the election with a new party allied with The Olive Tree rather than Berlusconi's Pole of Freedoms. Shortly after Berlusconi claimed that Dini "copied our electoral programme".[1]

Another important declaration was Umberto Bossi's one: the leader of the regionalist Lega Nord, which was very important in 1994 to help Berlusconi winning the election, said that his party would not support Berlusconi anymore and run alone in the election. At the same time, Prodi's coalition made an important pre-electoral agreement with Communist Refoundation Party in which Fausto Bertinotti's party undertook to support Prodi's government after the election in the case of a no-majority Parliament.

On 25 March 1996, Berlusconi organised a great manifestation in Milan against taxes (The Tax Day) attended by lot of Milanese artisans; on the same day, in Turin, Prodi was heavily contested during his electoral speech and accused of not wanting to lower taxes.[2]

Parties and leaders[edit]

Party Ideology Leader
Democratic Party of the Left (PDS) Social democracy Massimo D'Alema
Forza Italia (FI) Liberal conservatism Silvio Berlusconi
National Alliance (AN) National conservatism Gianfranco Fini
Lega Nord (LN) Regionalism Umberto Bossi
Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) Communism Fausto Bertinotti
Italian People's Party Christian democracy Franco Marini
CCDCDU Christian democracy Pier Ferdinando Casini
Italian Renewal (RI) Liberalism Lamberto Dini
Federation of the Greens (FdV) Green politics Franco Corleone
Pannella-Sgarbi List Liberalism Marco Pannella
Tricolour Flame (FT) Neo-Fascism Pino Rauti

Coalitions and electoral lists[edit]

Political force or alliance Constituent lists Leader
The Olive Tree
Democratic Party of the Left (Partito Democratico della Sinistra)
Romano Prodi
Populars for Prodi (Popolari per Prodi)
Italian Renewal (Rinnovamento Italiano)
Federation of the Greens (Federazione dei Verdi)
Italian Socialists (Socialisti Italiani)
Democratic Union (Unione Democratica)
Pole for Freedoms
(Polo per le Libertà)
Forward Italy (Forza Italia)
Silvio Berlusconi
National Alliance (Alleanza Nazionale)
Christian Democratic Centre (Centro Cristiano Democratico)
United Christian Democrats (Cristiani Democratici Uniti)
Northern League
(Lega Nord)
Northern League (Lega Nord)
Umberto Bossi
Communist Refoundation Party
(Partito della Rifondazione Comunista)
Communist Refoundation Party (Partito della Rifondazione Comunista)
Fausto Bertinotti
Pannella-Sgarbi List
(Lista Pannella-Sgarbi)
Pannella-Sgarbi List (Lista Pannella-Sgarbi)
Marco Pannella

Main leaders[edit]

Coalition Portrait Name Most recent position
The Olive Tree Romano Prodi crop.jpeg Romano Prodi Minister of Industry, Commerce and Manufacturing
Leader of the Olive Tree
Pole for Freedoms Silvio Berlusconi 1994.jpg Silvio Berlusconi Prime Minister of Italy
President of Forza Italia
Lega Nord Umberto Bossi 1994.jpg Umberto Bossi Federal Secretary of Lega Nord
Communist Refoundation Party Fausto Bertinotti.jpg Fausto Bertinotti Secretary of the Communist Refoundation Party
Pannella-Sgarbi List Marco Pannella.jpg Marco Pannella Leader of Pannella List


On election day, Prodi's Olive Tree coalition won over Berlusconi's Pole for Freedoms, becoming the first coalition composed by a post-communist party to win general election since the Second World War. In the Senate The Olive Tree obtained the majority, but in the Chamber it required the external support of Communist Refoundation Party.

Chamber of Deputies[edit]


Summary of the 21 April 1996 Chamber of Deputies election results
Italian Chamber of Deputies, 1996.svg
Party % Votes Seats
Democratic Party of the Left 21.06 7,894,118 26
Forza Italia 20.57 7,712,149 37
National Alliance 15.66 5,870,491 28
Lega Nord 10.07 3,776,354 20
Communist Refoundation Party 8.57 3,213,748 20
Populars for Prodi (PPI-UD-PRI-SVP) 6.81 2,554,072 4
Christian Democratic CentreUnited Christian Democrats 5.84 2,189,563 12
Italian Renewal 4.34 1,627,380 8
Federation of the Greens 2.50 938,665 0
Pannella-Sgarbi List 1.88 702,988 0
Tricolour Flame 0.91 339,351 0
Socialist Party 0.40 149,441 0
Southern Action League 0.19 72,062 0
North-East Union 0.17 63,934 0
Union for South Tyrol 0.15 55,548 0
Clean Hands 0.12 44,935 0
We Sicilians - National Sicilian Front 0.11 41,001 0
Sardinian Action Party 0.10 38,002 0
Greens Greens 0.07 25,788 0
Sardinia Nation 0.06 23,355 0
Freedom Independence Group 0.05 17,451 0
Environmentalists 0.04 15,560 0
Humanist Party 0.04 14,601 0
Renewal 0.04 13,677 0
Pact for the Sour 0.03 12,297 0
Social Democracy 0.02 9,319 0
Italian Rebirth Movement 0.02 8,886 0
Tuscan Autonomist Movement 0.02 8,627 0
Natural Law Party 0.02 8,298 0
New Democracy 0.02 8,185 0
Liberal Federalists 0.02 6,475 0
For Marche 0.01 5,545 0
New Energies 0.01 5,393 0
Development and Legality 0.01 5,347 0
Autonomy Free North 0.01 4,965 0
Federalist Party 0.01 3,743 0
Risorgimento of the South 0.01 3,084 0
Total 100.00 37,484,398 155


Parties and coalitions % Votes Seats
Pole for Freedoms 40.09 15,027,030 169
The Olive Tree 38.54 14,447,548 228
Lega Nord 10.77 4,038,239 39
The Olive TreeLega Autonomia Veneta 2.66 997,534 14
Progressives 2.62 982,505 15
Tricolour Flame 1.67 624,558 0
The Olive TreeSardinian Action Party 0.72 269,047 4
South Tyrolean People's Party 0.42 156,708 3
Southern Action League 0.22 82,373 1
Pannella-Sgarbi List 0.19 69,406 0
Clean Hands 0.18 68,443 0
Socialist Party 0.12 44,786 0
Sardinia Nation 0.11 42,246 0
Aosta Valley 0.10 37,431 1
Others 1.59 407,255 1
Total 100.00 37,295,109 475

Overall result[edit]

Popular vote (Proportional)
Popular vote (First-past-the-post)

Senate of the Republic[edit]

Summary of the 21 April 1996 Senate of the Republic election results
Italian Senate, 1996.svg
Parties and coalitions % Votes Seats
The Olive Tree 39.89 13,013,276 152
Pole for Freedoms 37.35 12,185,020 116
Lega Nord 10.41 3,394,733 27
Progressives 2.87 934,974 10
Tricolour Flame 2.29 747,487 1
Pannella-Sgarbi List 1.56 509,826 1
The Olive TreeSardinian Action Party 1.29 421,331 5
Socialist Party 0.88 286,426 0
The Fir - SVPPATT 0.55 178,425 2
Clean Hands 0.33 109,113 0
League for Autonomy – Lombard Alliance 0.33 106,313 0
North-East Union 0.22 72,541 0
We Sicilians – National Sicilian Front 0.22 71,841 0
Southern Action League 0.20 66,750 0
Greens Greens 0.19 61,434 0
Pensioners' Party 0.19 60,640 0
Social Democracy 0.18 60,016 0
Sardinia Nation 0.14 44,713 0
Aosta Valley 0.10 29,538 1
Others 0.81 270,188 0
Total 100.00 32,624,584 315

Overall result[edit]

Popular vote

Leaders' races[edit]

General Election 1996: Bologna East
Party Candidate Votes % ±
The Olive Tree Romano Prodi 55,830 60.8
Pole for Freedoms Filippo Berselli 35,972 39.2
Majority 19,858 21.6
Turnout 95,948 92.3
General Election 1996: Milan Centre
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Pole for Freedoms Silvio Berlusconi 46,098 51.5
The Olive Tree Michele Salvati 32,464 36.3
Lega Nord Umberto Bossi 10,179 11.4
Independent Camillo Comelli 766 0.8
Majority 13,634 15.2
Turnout 92,969 82.6


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]

External links[edit]