Article 1 of the Italian Constitution states: Italy is a democratic Republic founded on labour. Sovereignty belongs to the people and is exercised by the people in the forms and within the limits of the Constitution.
The people who are called to temporarily administer the republic are not owners, but servants; and the governed are not subjects, but citizens. And the sovereignty, that is the power to make choices that involve the entire community, belongs to the people, in accordance with the concept of a democracy, from the Greek demos (people) and kratìa (power). However, this power is not to be exercised arbitrarily, but in the forms and within the limits established by the rule of law.
As the head of state, the president of the Republic represents the unity of the nation and has many of the duties previously given to the King of Italy. The president serves as a point of connection between the three branches as he is elected by the lawmakers, appoints the executive and is the president of the judiciary. The president is also commander-in-chief in the time of war.
The president of the Republic is elected for seven years by Parliament in joint session.
A poster for the European Parliament election 2004 in Italy showing party lists
Italy's dramatic self-renewal transformed the political landscape between 1992 and 1997. Scandal investigations touched thousands of politicians, administrators and businessmen; the shift from a proportional to an Additional Member System (with the requirement to obtain a minimum of 4% of the national vote to obtain representation) also altered the political landscape. Party changes were sweeping. The Christian Democratic party dissolved; the Italian People's Party and the Christian Democratic Center emerged. Other major parties, such as the Socialists, saw support plummet. A new liberal movement, Forza Italia, gained wide support among moderate voters. The Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance) broke from the (alleged neo-fascist) Italian Social Movement (MSI). A trend toward two large coalitions (one on the center-left and the other on the center-right) emerged from the April 1995 regional elections. For the 1996 national elections, the center-left parties created the Olive Tree coalition while the center-right united again under the House of Freedoms. These coalitions continued into the 2001 and 2007 national elections.
This emerging bipolarity represents a major break from the fragmented, multi-party political landscape of the postwar era, although it appears to have reached a plateau since efforts via referendums to further curtail the influence of small parties were defeated in 1999, 2000 and 2009.
There have been frequent government turnovers since 1945, indeed there have been 61 governments in this time. The dominance of the Christian Democratic party during much of the postwar period lent continuity and comparative stability to Italy's political situation, mainly dominated by the attempt of keeping the Italian Communist Party (PCI) out of power in order to maintain Cold War equilibrium in the region (see May 1947 crisis).
The communists were in the government only in the national unity governments before 1948, in which their party's secretary Palmiro Togliatti was minister of Justice. After the first democratic elections with universal suffrage in 1948 in which the Christian Democracy and their allies won against the popular front of the Italian Communist and Socialists parties, the Communist Party never returned in the government.
Even though many repeat the cliché that Italy had over fifty governments in its first fifty years of democracy to stigmatise its alleged political instability, Italy's main political problem was actually the opposite as in all the course of the so-called First Republic the government was in the hands of the Christian Democrats and their allies since it was unacceptable for a communist party to rule a Western country during the Cold war. The system had been nicknamed the "imperfect bipolarism", referring to more proper bipolarism in other western countries (the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the like) where right-wing and left-wing parties alternated in government.
Entrance of the Socialists to the government
The main event in the First Republic in the 1960s was the inclusion of the Socialist party in the government after the reducing edge of the Christian Democracy (DC) had forced them to accept this alliance; attempts to incorporate the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a right party, in the Tambroni government led to riots and were short-lived.
Aldo Moro, a relatively left-leaning Christian Democrat, inspired this alliance. He would later try to include the Communist Party as well with a deal called the "historic compromise". However, this attempt at compromise was stopped by the kidnapping and murder of Moro in 1978 by the Red Brigades, an extremist left-wing terrorist organization.
The Communist Party was at this point the largest communist party in Western Europe and remained such for the rest of its existence. Their ability to attract members was largely due to their pragmatic stance, especially their rejection of extremism and to their growing independence from Moscow (see Eurocommunism). The Italian communist party was especially strong in areas like Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, where communists had been elected to stable government positions. This practical political experience may have contributed to their taking a more pragmatic approach to politics.
On 12 December 1969, a roughly decade-long period of extremist left- and right-wing political terrorism, known as The Years of Lead (as in the metal of bullets, Italian: anni di piombo), began with the Piazza Fontana bombing in the center of Milan. Neofascist Vincenzo Vinciguerra later declared the bombing to be an attempt to push the Italian state to declare a state of emergency in order to lead to a more authoritative state. A bomb left in a bank killed about twenty and was initially blamed on anarchistGiuseppe Pinelli. This accusation was hotly contested by left-wing circles, especially the Maoist Student Movement, which had support in those years from some students of Milan's universities and who considered the bombing to have all the marks of a fascist operation. Their guess proved correct, but only after many years of difficult investigations.
The strategy of tension attempted to blame the left for bombings carried out by right-wing terrorists. Fascist "black terrorists", such as Ordine Nuovo and the Avanguardia Nazionale, were in the 1980s and 1990s found to be responsible for several terrorist attacks. On the other extreme of the political spectrum, the leftist Red Brigades carried out assassinations against specific persons, but were not responsible for any blind bombings. The Red Brigades killed socialist journalist Walter Tobagi and in their most famous operation kidnapped and assassinated Aldo Moro, president of the Christian Democracy, who was trying to involve the Communist Party in the government through the compromesso storico ("historic compromise"), to which the radical left as well as Washington were opposed.
The last and largest of the bombings, known as the Bologna massacre, destroyed the city's railway station in 1980. This was found to be a neofascist bombing, in which Propaganda Due was involved. On 24 October 1990, Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti (DC) revealed to the Parliament the existence of Gladio, NATO's secret "stay-behind" networks which stocked weapons in order to facilitate an armed resistance in case of a communist coup. In 2000, a Parliament Commission report from the Olive Tree (centre-left) coalition concluded that the strategy of tension followed by Gladio had been supported by the United States to "stop the PCI and, to a certain degree, the PSI [Italian Socialist Party] from reaching executive power in the country".
As the Socialist Party moved to more moderate positions, it attracted many reformists, some of whom were irritated by the failure of the communists to modernize. Increasingly, many on the left began to see the communists as old and out of fashion while Craxi and the socialists seemed to represent a new liberal socialism. The Communist Party surpassed the Christian Democrats only in the European elections of 1984, held barely two days after Berlinguer's death, a passing that likely drew sympathy from many voters. The election of 1984 was to be the only time the Christian Democrats did not emerge as the largest party in a nationwide election in which they participated.
In 1987, one year after the Chernobyl disaster following a referendum in that year, a nuclear phase-out was commenced. Italy's four nuclear power plants were closed down, the last in 1990. A moratorium on the construction of new plants, originally in effect from 1987 until 1993, has since been extended indefinitely.
In these years, corruption began to be more extensive, a development that would be exposed in the early 1990s and nicknamed Tangentopoli. With the mani pulite investigation, starting just one year after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the whole power structure faltered and seemingly indestructible parties, such as the Christian Democrats and the Socialist Party, disbanded whereas the Communist Party changed its name to the Democratic Party of the Left and took the role of the Socialist Party as the main social democratic party in Italy. What was to follow was then called the transition to the Second Republic.
Second Republic: 1994–present
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(May 2019)
From 1992 to 1997, Italy faced significant challenges as voters, disenchanted with past political paralysis, massive government debt, extensive corruption and organized crime's considerable influence, collectively called Tangentopoli after being uncovered by mani pulite, demanded political, economic and ethical reforms.
In the Italian referendums of 1993, voters approved substantial changes, including moving from a proportional to an Additional Member System, which is largely dominated by a majoritarian electoral system and the abolition of some ministries, some of which have been reintroduced with only partly modified names, such as the Ministry of Agriculture reincarnated as the Ministry of Agricultural Resources.
Major political parties, beset by scandal and loss of voter confidence, underwent far-reaching changes. New political forces and new alignments of power emerged in the March 1994 national elections. This election saw a major turnover in the new parliament, with 452 out of 630 deputies and 213 out of 315 senators elected for the first time.
A series of center-left coalitions dominated Italy's political landscape between 1996 and 2001. In April 1996, national elections led to the victory of a center-left coalition, The Olive Tree, under the leadership of Romano Prodi. Prodi's government became the third-longest to stay in power before he narrowly lost a vote of confidence, by three votes, in October 1998.
In May 1999, the Parliament selected Carlo Azeglio Ciampi as the President of the Republic. Ciampi, a former prime minister and Minister of the Treasury and before entering the government also the governor of the Bank of Italy, was elected on the first ballot by a comfortable margin over the required two-thirds of the votes.
A new government was formed by the Democrats of the Left leader and former communist Massimo D'Alema, but in April 2000 he resigned following poor performance by his coalition in regional elections.
The succeeding center-left government, including most of the same parties, was headed by Giuliano Amato, a social democrat, who had previously served as prime minister in 1992–1993 and had at the time sworn never to return to active politics.
Between 17 May 2006 and 21 February 2007, Romano Prodi served as prime minister of Italy following the narrow victory of his The Union coalition over the House of Freedoms led by Silvio Berlusconi in the April 2006 Italian elections. Following a government crisis, Prodi submitted his resignation on 21 February 2007. Three days later, he was asked by President Giorgio Napolitano to stay on as prime minister and he agreed to do so. On 28 February 2007, Prodi narrowly survived a senate no confidence vote.
The Monti government had the highest average age in the western world (64 years), with its youngest members being 57. The previous Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is 70, his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi was 75 at the time of resignation (2011), the previous head of the government Romano Prodi was 70 when he stepped down (2008), the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano is 88 and his predecessor Carlo Azeglio Ciampi was 86. In 2013, the youngest among the candidates for prime minister (Pier Luigi Bersani) is 62, the others being 70 and 78. The current average age of Italian university professors is 63, of bank directors and CEOs 67, of members of parliament 56 and of labor union representatives 59.
The new Italian government headed by Enrico Letta took two months to form and made international news when Luigi Preiti shot at policemen near the building where they were swearing in the new government on Sunday 28 April 2013.
Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi became the youngest prime minister at 39 years and his government had the youngest average age in Europe.
Grand coalition governments
At different times since his entering the Italian Parliament, Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the centre-right, had repeatedly vowed to stop the "communists", while leftist parties had insisted that they would oust Berlusconi. Thus, despite the fact that the executive branch bears responsibility toward the Parliament, the governments led by Mario Monti (since 2011) and by Enrico Letta (since 2013) were called "unelected governments" because they won a vote of confidence by a Parliament coalition formed by centre-right and left-right parties that had in turn obtained parliamentary seats by taking part in the elections as competitors, rather than allies. While formally complying with law and procedures, the creation of these governments did not comply with the decision made by people through the election.
Meanwhile, in 2013, a ruling by the Constitutional Court of Italy established that the Italian electoral system employed to elect the Parliament breached a number of Constitutional requirements. Notably, the Court observed the following four facts: 1) "such a legislation deprives the elector of any margin of choice of its representatives"; 2) "all of the elected parliamentarians, with no exception, lack the support of a personal designation by the citizens"; 3) the electoral law has regulations which "exclude any ability on the part of the elector to have an influence on the election of his/her representatives"; 4) and contains conditions such that "they alter the representative relationship between electors and elected people...they coerce the electors' freedom of choice in the election of their representatives to the Parliament...and consequently they are at odds with the democratic principle, by affecting the very freedom of vote provided for by art. 48 of the Constitution". This implies that, despite being called - and acting as – a legitimate "parliament", the legislative assembly of Italy was chosen with a vote system by which the right of vote was not exercised according to the Italian fundamental chart of citizen's rights and duties. The issue was a major one, to the extent that the Constitutional Court itself ruled that the Italian Parliament should remain in charge only to reform the electoral system and then should be dissolved.
The new government led by Matteo Renzi proposed a new electoral law. The so-called Italicum was approved in 2015 and came into force on 1 July 2016.
Discusses political historians such as Silvio Lanaro, Aurelio Lepre, and Nicola Tranfaglia, and studies of Fascism, the Italian Communist party, the role of the Christian Democrats in Italian society, and the development of the Italian parliamentary Republic. excerpt