Italian general election, 1996

Italian general election, 1996

21 April 1996

All 630 seats in the Italian Chamber of Deputies
315 seats in the Italian Senate
Turnout 82.88%

Leader Romano Prodi Silvio Berlusconi Umberto Bossi
Alliance The Olive Tree Pole for Freedoms Northern League
Leader's seat Bologna East Milan Centre Milan Centre (lost)
Seats won 322 C / 169 S 246 C / 116 S 59 C / 27 S
Seat change 63 C / 47 S 26 C / 40 S 58 C / 33 S
Coalition vote 16,924,099 C
13,013,276 S
15,095,436 C
12,185,020 S
3,776,354 C
3,394,733 S
Percentage 45.4% (C)
39.8% (S)
43.2% (C)
37.3% (S)
10.1% (C)
10.4% (S)

Election results maps for the Chamber of Deputies (on the left) and for the Senate (on the right). On the left, the color identifies the coalition which received the most votes in each province. On the right, the color identifies the coalition which won the most seats in respect to each Region. Red the Centre-left coalition, Blue denotes the Centre-right coalition, Green denotes Lega Nord and Gray regional parties.

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 Northern League 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

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


In December 1994, following the communication of a new investigation from Milan magistrates that was leaked to the press, Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League, 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. The Northern League 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 Northern League.

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 Northern League, 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]

Main coalitions and parties

Coalition Party Main ideology Leader
The Olive Tree Democratic Party of the Left (PDS) Democratic socialism Massimo D'Alema
Populars for Prodi (PP) Christian democracy Franco Marini
Italian Renewal (RI) Liberalism Lamberto Dini
Federation of the Greens (FdV) Green politics Franco Corleone
Italian Socialists (SI) Social democracy Enrico Boselli
Democratic Union (UD) Social liberalism Antonio Maccanico
The Network (LR) Christian left Leoluca Orlando
Pole for Freedoms Forza Italia (FI) Liberal conservatism Silvio Berlusconi
National Alliance (AN) Conservatism Gianfranco Fini
Christian Democratic Centre (CCD) Christian democracy Pier Ferdinando Casini
United Christian Democrats (CDU) Christian democracy Rocco Buttiglione
Northern League (LN) Regionalism Umberto Bossi
Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) Communism Fausto Bertinotti
Pannella–Sgarbi List (LPS) Liberalism Marco Pannella

Main leaders

Coalition Portrait Name Most recent position
The Olive Tree Romano Prodi Minister of Industry, Commerce and Manufacturing
Leader of the Olive Tree
Pole for Freedoms Silvio Berlusconi Prime Minister of Italy
President of Forza Italia
Northern League Umberto Bossi Federal Secretary of Northern League
Communist Refoundation Party Fausto Bertinotti Secretary of the Communist Refoundation Party
Pannella–Sgarbi List Marco Pannella Leader of Pannella List

Results for the Chamber of Deputies

Overall results

Summary of the 21 April 1996 Chamber of Deputies election results
Coalition Party Proportional First-past-the-post Total
Votes % Seats Votes % Seats
The Olive Tree Democratic Party of the Left (PDS)7,894,11821.062615,747,45542.01146172[3]+48
Populars for Prodi (PPIUDPRISVP)2,554,0726.8146569[4]+18
Italian Renewal (incl. PS and SI)1,627,3804.3481826[5]New
Federation of the Greens (FdV)938,6652.5001414+3
The Network (LR)N/AN/A033−5
Ladin Autonomist Union (UAL)N/AN/A011+1
Total seats38247285
Pole for Freedoms Forza Italia (FI)7,712,14920.573715,027,03040.0886123[6]−9
National Alliance (AN)5,870,49115.66286593−17
Total seats77169246
Northern League (LN)3,776,35410.07204,038,23910.773959−59
Communist Refoundation Party (PRC)3,213,7488.5720982,5052.621535−3
South Tyrolean People's Party (SVP)N/AN/A0156,7080.4233±0
Southern Action League (LAM)72,0620.19082,3730.2211±0
Aosta Valley (VdA)N/AN/A037,4310.1011±0


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
Northern League 10.07 3,776,354 20
Communist Refoundation Party 8.57 3,213,748 20
Populars for Prodi (PPIUDPRISVP) 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 the Sicilians – National Sicilian Front 0.11 41,001 0
Sardinian Action Party 0.10 38,002 0
Others 0.54 200,596 0
Total 100.00 37,484,398 155
Invalid/blank/unassigned votes2,917,376
Registered voters/turnout82.88%48,744,846
Source: Ministry of the Interior
Popular vote (Proportional)


Parties and coalitions % Votes Seats
Pole for Freedoms 40.09 15,027,030 169
The Olive Tree 38.54 14,447,548 228
Northern League 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
Popular vote (First-past-the-post)

Results for the Senate of the Republic

Summary of the 21 April 1996 Senate of the Republic election results
Coalition Party First-past-the-post Proportional
Votes % Seats
The Olive Tree Democratic Party of the Left (PDS)13,434,60741.1813423102[8]+26
Italian People's Party (PPI)27−4
Federation of the Greens (FdV)14+7
Italian Renewal (RI)11[9]New
The Network (LR)1−5
Lega Autonomia Veneta (LAV)1+1
Sardinian Action Party (PSd'Az)1+1
Total seats157
Pole for Freedoms Forza Italia (FI)12,185,02037.35674948[10]+13
National Alliance (AN)43−4
Christian Democratic Centre (CCD)15+3
United Christian Democrats (CDU)10New
Total seats116
Northern League (LN)3,394,73310.4118927−33
The Fir–SVPPATT178,4250.55202−1
Tricolour Flame (FT)747,4872.29011New
Pannella-Sgarbi List509,8261.56011±0
Aosta Valley (VdA)27,4930.08101±0
Socialist Party (PS)286,4260.88000New
Clean Hands109,1130.33000New
League for Autonomy – Lombard Alliance106,3130.33000−1
North-East Union (UNE)72,5410.22000New
We the Sicilians – National Sicilian Front71,8410.22000±0
Southern Action League (LAM)66,7500.20000±0
Greens Greens (VV)61,4340.19000±0
Pensioners' Party (PP)60,6400.19000±0
Social Democracy60,0160.18000New
Sardinia Nation (SN)44,7130.14000±0
Popular vote


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.

Leaders' races

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
Northern League Umberto Bossi 10,179 11.4
Independent Camillo Comelli 766 0.8
Majority 13,634 15.2
Turnout 92,969 82.6


  1. Including 8 deputies of the Movement of Unitarian Communists (MCU), 6 deputies of the Labour Federation (FL), 5 deputies of the Social Christians (CS), one deputy of the Republican Left (SR) and one deputy of the Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI)
  2. Including 5 deputies of the Democratic Union (UD) and 2 deputies of the Italian Republican Party (PRI)
  3. Including 8 deputies of Segni Pact (PS), 7 deputies of the Italian Socialists (SI) and one deputy of the Democratic Italian Movement (MID)
  4. Including 3 deputies of the Union of the Centre (UdC)
  5. 19 deputies of CCD and 11 deputies of CDU
  6. Including 5 senators of the Labour Federation (FL) and 4 senators of the Social Christians (CS)
  7. Including 5 senators of the Italian Socialists (SI), one senator of Segni Pact (PS) and one senator of the Democratic Italian Movement (MID)
  8. Including 2 senators of the Union of the Centre (UdC)
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