Segni, Mario

(1939– )
   Mario Segni, the son of President Antonio Segni, was born in the Sardinian city of Sassari in June 1939. Like his father, Segni followed a career as a law professor, before entering the Chamber of Deputies in 1976 as a standard bearer for the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC). By 1986, he had become convinced of the need for a reform of Italy’s narrowly proportional system of electing its Parliament. In that year, Segni formed a pressure group dedicated to advocating the introduction of majoritarian principles of election to the Italian political system. This initiative was backed by nearly 200 members of Parliament from all the parties except the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI) and the neofascist Movimento Sociale Italiano/Italian Social Movement (MSI). In 1988, Segni also founded the Comitato per la Riforma Elettorale/Committee for Electoral Reform (COREL), which, as a starting point, pressed for the direct election of mayors in all urban centers. The rigid opposition of the leadership of the DC and the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI) to this proposal convinced Segni that it was necessary to resort to a referendum. In 1990 the COREL introduced three referendum proposals. The first eliminated the practice of multiple preference voting in elections to the Chamber of Deputies. The second sought to introduce the direct election of mayors in towns with more than 5,000 inhabitants. The third sought to introduce majoritarian principles in elections for threequarters of the seats in the Senate, with one-quarter being assigned by proportional representation. In January 1991, the Constitutional Court allowed a referendum on the first of these proposals. On 9 June 1991, the referendum became the only one in postwar Italian history to be backed by a majority of all adults (not just of those voting)—a historic slap in the face for the party leaderships, which had opposed the referendum strenuously.
   Once the June poll was over, Segni began campaigning for the two referendums denied by the Constitutional Court. In March 1993, the Italian Parliament enacted into law the scheme for the direct election of mayors; this law was first used in local elections in June 1993. In April 1993, Italians voted in a fresh referendum by a four to one margin to introduce a primarily majoritarian system of election for the Italian Senate. Immediately prior to the April poll, Segni left the DC. Many believed that he would be able to parlay his success as the leader of the referendum campaigns into a position of national political leadership. Since the April 1993 election, however, Segni has lost most of his luster. His “Segni Pact” did very badly in the March 1994 elections, winning no seats directly. Despite this fall from grace, Segni remains one of the most well-known figures in Italian politics.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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