More Than 1 Million Italians Abroad Cast Ballots In ParliamentaryEle

By Marta Falconi, Associated Press Writer

Associated Press Worldstream
April 9, 2006 Sunday 12:05 AM GMT

More than 1 million Italians living abroad voted in the country’s
parliamentary election, according to a final tally, and their ballots
could be decisive in a close race.

This election marked the first time expatriates were allowed to vote
in a general election without having to travel back to Italy.

Around 1.1 million Italians abroad, or 42 percent of those eligible,
sent in their ballots by mail in early voting, the Foreign Ministry
said on Saturday.

Official results won’t be released until after the Sunday-Monday
domestic voting to choose between blocs led by Premier Silvio
Berlusconi and his center-left challenger, former European Commission
President Romano Prodi.

About 2.6 million citizens abroad were eligible to vote to elect 18
lawmakers who, for the first time, will be responsible for representing
their interests in the national legislature. Those lawmakers will fill
12 new seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of parliament,
and six in the Senate.

Around 47 million citizens who live in Italy will vote this weekend.

Latin American consulates reported the highest average ballot return
rate, with about 52 percent of Italians voting, the ministry said.

The highest return was in Uruguay, where 63 percent of Italians
voted. Campaigning politicians paid special attention to Latin America
Argentina in particular because it is home to hundreds of thousands
of expatriates. Fifty-six percent of Italians living there voted.

Europe had an average return rate of about 38 percent, with Armenia
topping the list with 95 percent, the ministry reported. About 37
percent of Italians living in North America voted, with the highest
returns in Barbados at 81 percent. Africa, Asia and Oceania reported
an average of 44 percent, with 100 percent or 32 people voting in
Kuwait, the ministry said.

Until now, Italians wishing to vote in their country’s general
elections had to fly back to Italy. A 2001 law, one of the first pieces
of legislation from Berlusconi’s five-year conservative government,
gave citizens who live abroad the right to vote by mail.

The expatriate representatives will have full voting rights in
Italy’s parliament, giving Italians abroad the chance to influence
decisions not just on issues concerning them directly, but also on
those affecting domestic policies in Italy.

In addition to giving overseas voters the right to cast ballots,
the law also created four huge electoral districts to represent
Italians who live overseas in Parliament, which is composed of a
315-seat Senate and 630-seat Chamber of Deputies.

In recent weeks, politicians of all stripes have been crisscrossing
the globe trying to woo voters.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

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