23 April 2015

The glory of Venetian democracy

[A]n insight can be gained into the labyrinthine Venetian mind by describing the process by which a doge was elected. On the morning of the election the youngest member of the Signoria, one branch of the administration, fell on his knees to pray in the basilica; then he went out into Saint Mark's Square, and stopped the first boy whom he met. This child then became the ballotino, who drew the nomination slips from the urn in the ducal palace. In the first ballot the great council chose thirty of its members. In a second vote nine were chosen out of this original thirty. In turn the nine chose forty, each of whom had to receive seven nominations. A new ballot would then reduce this forty to twelve, who voted for twenty, who voted for nine, who voted for forty-five, who voted for eleven. These eleven then voted for forty-one. The final forty-one voters would then elect the doge. No more cumbersome and intricate procedure could have been devised. Its only purpose was to eliminate individual chicanery and special interests, but it suggests an almost obsessive preoccupation with communal solidarity.

- Peter Ackroyd, Venice: Pure City, London, 2009, p.140.

See also:
Blog: 96 hours in the Eternal City, 16 October 2010
Blog: Three fair ladies of Italy, 30 September 2010
Blog: Napoli, 3 April 2008
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