Once more into the breach... the Italian Government under Prodi are now calling for a return to first-past-the post-elections, introduced after the fall of the so-called first republic in 1992, and abolished by Silvio Berlusconi.
All this raises an interesting question about the connection between institutions and economic reform. Electoral systems are probably the most important institution in determining whether governments can push through painful reforms.
Compare the performance of Italy, with its hundreds of parties, chronically poor government, with that of Spain - with first past the post, and regular stable majority Governments. No surprise that Spain is due to overtake Italy in wealth per head by 2009 according to the Economist.
But, as has been pointed out in the past, as long as the majority for governing is lower than the majority for constitutional reform, Italy is unlikely to see further reform without a crisis. Is FPTP the right idea? FPTP works well in keeping a simple party system stable and avoiding what Sartori called 'centripetal competition'.
But if there is already high fragmentation, particularly along regional lines, FPTP might not reduce the number of parties. Much as FPTP is right for the UK, maybe proportional representation with a high threshold (say 7% to get any seats) would simplify things quicker in Italy...