0.07 Licenced to Thrill
OK so declaring victory based on exit polls was premature (again). But by 2:30 AM it was clear that the center left had won the election for the camera dei deputati (lower house). By 3:15 AM definitive results showed the center left had won by the big big margin of 27,224 votes or 0.07% (actually 0.066 %). Given the electoral law passed by the center right thinking it would help them, this implies a solid majority in the camera with the center left getting at least 341 out of 640 seats Votes for 12 deputies of "Italians abroad" are still being counted.
This is a majority even excluding the 10 deputies of the U.D.Eur-Populari some of whom have been known to switch sides between elections (between 1996 and 2001). I think this means that the only possible next Prime Minister of Italy is Romano Prodi. The posts below note that many people have placed bets and will, eventually, collect if and when he becomes prime minister. The betting took place in England where the prime minister is known on election night.
In Italy the prime minister must have the confidence of both the camera dei deputati and the Senate.
In the Senate the result is quite different. The center right is ahead 155 seats to 154. All six seats for Italians overseas are not yet decided. It is predicted that they will split 3 for each. Thus the center left will not have a majority of elected Senators. However, there are also senators for life. These include two ex Presidents of the Republic and various eminent citizens named Senator for life as an honor. Many strange things have happened in Italian politics but this would be (probably will be) the first time the votes of senators for life matter (traditionally they don't vote). Even if they vote confidence in Prodi, he will need the support of Senators elected for the center right to govern.
My guess is that the UDC (a fragment of the Christian Democrats) will perform the traditional Italian role of "ago del bilancio" and will exercise power totally out of proportion with the votes they won.
The different results in the camera and the senate have two explanations. Within alliances there are many different parties and, for the camera, the two largest parties on the center left presented a common list. People irritated with the large number of egotistical party leaders may have voted for that list but not voted for any party in the senate. More importantly, only people aged 25 and over can vote for senators. The most likely explanation of the different results is that slightly more young people voted for the center left than for the center right. This also means that, aside from parliamentary arithmetic, the result for the Camera is considered more democratic and therefore more important.