1996 Italian general election

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.

1996 Italian general election

 1994 21 April 1996 2001 

All 630 seats in the Chamber of Deputies
315 seats in the Senate
Leader Romano Prodi Silvio Berlusconi Umberto Bossi
Alliance The Olive Tree Pole for Freedoms Lega Nord
Leader's seat Bologna Mazzini 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)

Results of the single-member constituencies in the Chamber of Deputies (left) and Senate (right).

Prime Minister before election

Lamberto Dini

Appointed Prime Minister

Romano Prodi
The Olive Tree

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, supported 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 Christian left 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) Anti-corruption politics Leoluca Orlando
Pole for Freedoms Forza Italia (FI) Liberal conservatism Silvio Berlusconi
National Alliance (AN) National 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) Libertarianism Marco Pannella

Coalitions' leaders

Portrait Name Most recent position Refs
Romano Prodi
(1939– )
Leader of The Olive Tree

Other positions
Silvio Berlusconi
(1936– )

Other positions
Umberto Bossi
(1941– )
Federal Secretary of the Northern League

Other positions
Fausto Bertinotti
(1940– )
Secretary of the Communist
Refoundation Party


Other positions
Marco Pannella
Member of the European Parliament

Other positions


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[13]+48
Populars for Prodi (PPIUDPRISVP)2,554,0726.8146569[14]+18
Italian Renewal (RI)1,627,3804.3481826[15]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[16]−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 (PDS) 7,894,118 21.06 26
Forza Italia (FI) 7,712,149 20.57 37
National Alliance (AN) 5,870,491 15.66 28
Northern League (LN) 3,776,354 10.07 20
Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) 3,213,748 8.57 20
Populars for Prodi (PPIUDPRISVP) 2,554,072 6.81 4
Christian Democratic CentreUnited Christian Democrats (CCD–CDU) 2,189,563 5.84 12
Italian Renewal (RI) 1,627,380 4.34 8
Federation of the Greens (FdV) 938,665 2.50 0
Pannella-Sgarbi List (LPS) 702,988 1.88 0
Tricolour Flame (FT) 339,351 0.91 0
Socialist Party (PS) 149,441 0.40 0
Southern Action League (LAM) 72,062 0.19 0
North-East Union (UNE) 63,934 0.17 0
Union for South Tyrol (UfS) 55,548 0.15 0
Clean Hands (MP) 44,935 0.12 0
We Sicilians – Sicilian National Front (NS–FNS) 41,001 0.11 0
Sardinian Action Party (PSd'Az) 38,002 0.10 0
Greens Greens 25,788 0.07 0
Sardinia Nation (SN) 23,355 0.06 0
Independent Group Freedom 17,451 0.05 0
Environmentalists 15,560 0.04 0
Humanist Party (PU) 14,601 0.04 0
Renovation 13,677 0.04 0
Pact for the Agro 12,297 0.03 0
Social Democracy 9,319 0.02 0
Italian Renaissance Movement (MRI) 8,886 0.02 0
Tuscan Autonomist Movement (MAT) 8,627 0.02 0
Natural Law Party (PLN) 8,298 0.02 0
New Democracy 8,185 0.02 0
Liberal Federalists (FL) 6,475 0.02 0
For Marche 5,545 0.01 0
New Energies 5,393 0.01 0
Development and Legality 5,347 0.01 0
Free North Autonomy 4,965 0.01 0
Federalist Party (PF) 3,743 0.01 0
Resurgence of the South 3,084 0.01 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 Vote % Seats
Pole for Freedoms (PpL) 15,027,030 40.09 169
The Olive Tree (Ulivo) 14,447,548 38.54 228
Northern League (LN) 4,038,239 10.77 39
The Olive TreeVenetian Autonomy League (Ulivo–LAV) 997,534 2.66 14
Progressives 982,505 2.62 15
Tricolour Flame (FT) 624,558 1.67 0
The Olive TreeSardinian Action Party (Ulivo–PSd'Az) 269,047 0.72 4
South Tyrolean People's Party (SVP) 156,708 0.42 3
Southern Action League (LAM) 82,373 0.22 1
Pannella-Sgarbi List (LPS) 69,406 0.19 0
Clean Hands (MP) 68,443 0.18 0
Socialist Party (PS) 44,786 0.12 0
Sardinia Nation (SN) 42,246 0.11 0
Aosta Valley (VdA) 37,431 0.10 1
Democracy and Freedom (DL) 33,326 0.09 1
Renovation 28,988 0.08 0
Humanist Party (PU) 27,694 0.07 0
Italian Renaissance Movement (MRI) 24,074 0.06 0
Union for South Tyrol (UfS) 23,032 0.06 0
We Sicilians – Sicilian National Front (NS–FNS) 20,102 0.05 0
Pact for the Agro 18,836 0.05 0
Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) 17,996 0.05 0
Greens Greens 12,905 0.03 0
Environmentalists 12,299 0.03 0
Liberal Federalists (FL) 11,563 0.03 0
Aosta Valley for the Olive Tree 11,526 0.03 0
Social Democracy (DS) 9,760 0.03 0
North-East Union (UNE) 9,669 0.03 0
Independent Group Freedom (GIL) 8,805 0.02 0
Natural Law Party (PLN) 7,708 0.02 0
Moderates 6,208 0.02 0
New Energies 5,627 0.02 0
New Democracy (ND) 5,333 0.01 0
Development and Legality 5,275 0.01 0
For Marche 4,317 0.01 0
Resurgence of the South 4,291 0.01 0
Free North Autonomy 4,013 0.01 0
New Ways 3,904 0.01 0
State of Friuli 3,345 0.01 0
Liberist Solidal Alliance 3,219 0.01 0
Ingenuity and Audacity 2,805 0.01 0
Venetian Solidarity 2,655 0.01 0
South Pole Movement 2,310 0.01 0
Federalist Italian League (LIF) 2,268 0.01 0
Trieste Women's Pact 2,121 0.01 0
Federalist Party (PF) 1,744 0.00 0
National League of Istria Fiume Dalmatia 1,653 0.00 0
Radaelli List 1,531 0.00 0
Azure Alps 999 0.00 0
NI 675 0.00 0
Others 64,679 0.17 0
Total 37,295,109 100.00 475
Popular vote (First-past-the-post)

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[18]+26
Italian People's Party (PPI)27−4
Federation of the Greens (FdV)14+7
Italian Renewal (RI)11[19]New
The Network (LR)1−5
Venetian Autonomy League (LAV)1+1
Sardinian Action Party (PSd'Az)1+1
Total seats157
Pole for Freedoms Forza Italia (FI)12,185,02037.35674948[20]+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
Tricolour Flame (FT)747,4872.29011New
Pannella-Sgarbi List (LPS)509,8261.56011±0
Socialist Party (PS)286,4260.88000New
The Fir–SVPPATT178,4250.55202−1
Clean Hands (MP)109,1130.33000New
League for Autonomy – Lombard Alliance (LAL)106,3130.33000−1
North-East Union (UNE)72,5410.22000New
We Sicilians – Sicilian National Front (NS–FNS)71,8410.22000±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
Federation of Italian Civic Lists55,7930.17000New
Sardinia Nation (SN)44,7130.14000±0
Aosta Valley (VdA)27,4930.08101±0
Piedmont Nation of Europe26,9510.08000±0
Independent Group Freedom (GIL)23,3010.07000New
Union for South Tyrol (UfS)19,3300.06000±0
Tuscan Autonomist Movement (MAT)18,6910.06000±0
Pact for the Agro17,9800.06000New
Aosta Valley for the Olive Tree10,3710.03000New
Right of the People6,7100.02000New
Natural Law Party (PLN)10,3710.03000±0
Democrats for Progress5,6880.02000New
Communist Refoundation Party (PRC)5,6810.02000
Popular Movement of Moralization (MPM)5,2970.02000New
Azure Alps5,1440.02000New
Democratic Alternative for the Roman Castles4,5240.01000New
Progressive People's Party (PPP)4,4500.01000±0
For a Normal Country3,9760.01000New
European Dolomite Region2,8980.01000New
Free North Autonomy2,4110.01000New
Hit the Center2,1780.01000New
Popular vote


Results for the Chamber of Deputies (left) and Senate of the Republic (right) in single-member constituencies. The color corresponds to the party or coalition that won the constituency. Red represents The Olive Tree, blue the Pole for Freedoms, green the Northern League, dark red the Communist Refoundation Party, black the South-Tyrolean People's Party, indigo the Southern Action League, and turquoise the Aosta Valley coalition.
Composition of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate by coalition

Leaders' races

1996 Italian general election (C): Bologna – Mazzini
Candidate Coalition Party Votes %
Romano Prodi The Olive Tree Ind 55,830 60.82
Filippo Berselli Pole for Freedoms AN 35,972 39.18
Total 91,802 100.0
Turnout 95,948 92.26
Centre-left hold
Source: Ministry of the Interior
1996 Italian general election (C): Milan Centre
Candidate Coalition Party Votes %
Silvio Berlusconi Pole for Freedoms FI 46,098 51.50
Michele Salvati The Olive Tree PDS 32,464 36.27
Umberto Bossi * LN 10,179 11.37
Camillo Comelli PU 766 0.86
Total 89,507 100.0
Turnout 92,969 82.64
Centre-right gain from LN
* incumbent defeated
Source: Ministry of the Interior


  1. "ANNO 1996 MESE DI FEBBRAIO". Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2012-08-21.
  3. Prodi dall'Annunziata
  4. La vittoria di Prodi nel 1996
  5. I manifesti elettorali di Silvio Berlusconi dal 1994 ad oggi
  6. Prodi–Berlusconi, vigilia di duello. Leader in ritiro, si limano le regole
  7. Pontida 1996, il discorso di Umberto Bossi sulla nascita della Padania
  8. 1996, quando la Lega era pro-euro
  9. Fausto Bertinotti e Giuliano Ferrara da Bruno Vespa
  10. Silvio Berlusconi e Fausto Bertinotti da Lucia Annunziata
  11. Pannella a Porta a Porta nel 1996
  12. Pannella, una vita da radicale
  13. 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)
  14. Including 5 deputies of the Democratic Union (UD) and 2 deputies of the Italian Republican Party (PRI)
  15. Including 8 deputies of Segni Pact (Patto), 7 deputies of the Italian Socialists (SI) and one deputy of the Democratic Italian Movement (MID)
  16. Including 3 deputies of the Union of the Centre (UdC)
  17. 19 deputies of CCD and 11 deputies of CDU
  18. Including 5 senators of the Labour Federation (FL) and 4 senators of the Social Christians (CS)
  19. Including 5 senators of the Italian Socialists (SI), one senator of Segni Pact (PS) and one senator of the Democratic Italian Movement (MID)
  20. Including 2 senators of the Union of the Centre (UdC)