Freedom in the World
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Italy’s parliamentary system features competitive multiparty elections. The Vatican has traditionally held significant influence over the country’s politics, and ties between organized crime and public officials persist. Civil liberties are generally respected, though the judicial system is undermined by long trial delays and the influence of organized crime.
- In May, the parliament approved a law recognizing same-sex civil unions, providing same-sex couples with the opportunity to claim nearly all of the rights conferred by marriage.
- Authorities struggled to provide adequate housing for asylum seekers and refugees and to process asylum applications in a timely manner, as the country continued to experience large-scale migration by sea from the Middle East and North Africa.
In 2016, the parliament approved same-sex civil unions, after a lively debate that lasted for nearly two years. The law provides same-sex couples who enter a civil union with almost all rights conferred by marriage. The possibility of stepchild adoption was removed from the legislation, however.
Italy continued to face large-scale migration by sea from the Middle East and North Africa during 2016, with over 180,000 registered arrivals during the year. Immediate emergency services for arriving migrants, many of whom were asylum seekers, were routine and included medical treatment, food, water, and temporary shelter. However, the authorities still struggled to provide adequate longer-term housing and ensure the timely processing of asylum applications. Reports of excessive use of force by police against migrants have persisted.
A controversial new electoral law approved in 2015 entered into force in July 2016. The measure, designed to encourage majorities and avoid postelection deadlock, mandates that a party that wins more than 40 percent of the popular vote in a legislative election be granted at least 54 percent of seats in the lower house; if no party wins more than 40 percent, a special election round is held in which the winning party receives at least 54 percent of lower-house seats. The Constitutional Court is expected to rule on the reform’s legality in 2017.
Separately, constitutional reforms designed to streamline Italy’s time-consuming legislative processes by reducing the size and powers of the Senate were approved by parliament in April 2016, but rejected by voters in a December referendum amid concerns that the changes could give outsized powers to the prime minister. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi subsequently resigned and was replaced by foreign affairs minister Paolo Gentiloni.
This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Italy, see Freedom in the World 2016.