Italy Government and Politics
State and politics
Italy has been a republic since 1946 and a parliamentary democracy. The 1948 Constitution contains a comprehensive declaration of rights in which citizens are guaranteed the right of association, freedom of expression and expression, the right to vote and protection against social insecurity. The head of state is the president, who is elected for seven years by an assembly consisting of the members of Italy’s national parliament and 58 representatives appointed from the country’s 20 regions. President Giorgio Napolitano was re-elected for a new seven-year term in the spring of 2013, after the result in the parliamentary elections led to a situation where a majority could not be achieved neither for the election of a new president nor for the appointment of a new government. Already in January 2015, Napolitano resigned and a new president was elected, in the fourth round of parliamentary votes, former Minister and Judge of the Constitutional Court Sergio Mattarella. The president appoints government leaders, can veto certain legislative issues, dissolve parliament, announce new elections, and is a formal commander. The Constitution provides for a referendum. A referendum may refer to a constitutional or legislative issue. In the latter case it is merely abrogative, ie. can only repeal existing law. A referendum must be conducted if at least half a million citizens through signatures demand this. In the latter case it is merely abrogative, ie. can only repeal existing law. A referendum must be conducted if at least half a million citizens through signatures demand this. In the latter case it is merely abrogative, ie. can only repeal existing law. A referendum must be conducted if at least half a million citizens through signatures demand this.
According to AllCityCodes.com, the legislative power is held by a two-chamber parliament, with a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate. Both chambers have identical powers but work and decide independently of each other. In some constitutional cases, the two chambers together constitute a decisive assembly. In order for a new law to be adopted, both decisions must be made in the same chamber.
Italy is divided into 20 regions (regioni), which in turn is divided into 95 provinces. Five regions have particularly widespread self-government: Sicily, Sardinia, Trentino-Alto Adige (South Tyrol), Valle d’Aosta and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The autonomy of the regions has also increased. Each region has a council, consiglio regional, which is elected in general elections every five years. A regional board, giunta, holds the executive power and is responsible to the council.
In December 2017, a new electoral system, called Rosatellum (or Rosatellum bis), was introduced after its author Ettore Rosato (born 1968), then the group leader of the Democratic Party in the Chamber of Deputies. This replaced the previous election systems from 2005 and 2013 respectively.
Italy has since had a mixed election system. One third of the mandate is distributed through plurality elections in one-man constituencies and two thirds of the mandate with proportional electoral method. The same method applies to the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. In addition, a number of seats (six in the Senate and twelve in the Chamber of Deputies) were reserved for votes from Italian voters living abroad. These are selected by proportional method.
In the new electoral system, 37 percent of the seats with plurality elections are elected in one-man constituencies and the remaining 63 percent of the seats by proportional method (including the mandate for foreigners resident Italian citizens). For both the Senate and the House, the choice is decided in one round.
The election system reintroduced so-called closed lists. This means that the candidates’ order on the ballot paper cannot be changed.
The voting age for the Chamber of Deputies is 18 years and for the Senate 25 years.
Political parties, elections and government formation
During the postwar period until the early 1990s, Italian society was dominated by two ideologically distinct political forces: Christian Democrats and Communists. The former dominated virtually all governments Italy had during these 45 years. The Communists had power in several regions and in some major cities. In the early 1990s, a drastic change in the Italian party system began. The Christian Democrats (DC) and the Socialist Party (PSI) were dissolved following a series of scandals. The Socialist Party changed its name to the Democratici di Sinistra (‘the Left Democrats’, DS) and became a social democratic party of European cross. The Christian Democrats split into several small parties.
The political situation in Italy in the 21st century continued to change dramatically. For this, changes in the electoral system that favor coalitions between several parties greatly contributed. The number of political parties at local, regional and national level is very large. Internal contradictions, especially at national level, have led to strong party fragmentation and changing patterns of cooperation.
The 2008 election resulted in a center-right coalition with the party Popolo della Libertá (‘People of Freedom’, PDL) as the largest party taking over the government and Silvio Berlusconi was appointed head of government. The opposition was led by a center-left coalition with Partito Democratico (the “Democratic Party”, PD) as the leading party. The Berlusconi government was supported by Lega Nord (‘Northern Federation’, LN), which advocates autonomy for Northern Italy, and its southern Italian partner Movimento per l’Autonomia (‘The Movement for Independence’, MPA).
The economic crisis hit Italy hard after 2008 and the government faced increasingly harsh criticism both within the country and from abroad. Berlusconi was personally prosecuted for financial crimes and other criminal acts and resigned from his post in November 2011. He was succeeded by lifetime senator Mario Monti, who appointed a technocrat government whose main task was to get the chaotic state finances in order. Monti implemented a number of austerity measures that were met by strong popular dissatisfaction.
In December 2012, Silvio Berlusconi declared that in the upcoming parliamentary elections he intended to run for a fourth term as Italian Prime Minister. The PDL then withdrew its support for the government and Chief Minister Mario Monti announced that he would resign. President Napolitano announced that elections to both the House of Representatives and the Senate would be held at the end of February 2013.
A large number of parties participated in the election campaign. Most of them chose to join one of the large party groups. The resigned head of Monti announced that he was in the lead of a centrist party group that went to elections under the name “With Monti for Italy”. Early in the electoral movement, the center-left coalition “Italy, the general good” with PD, led by Pier Luigi Bersani (born 1951), had an opinion lead, but this gradually diminished. One reason for this was that the Euroskeptic, reform-critical and populist movement Movimento 5 Stelle (‘The Five Star Movement’ M5S), led by comedian Giuseppe “Beppe” Grillo quickly won increased support.
The February 24-25 2013 election resulted in a locked parliamentary situation. In the election to the Chamber of Deputies, PD received 25.4 percent of the vote. In addition to PD, there was also an ecologically oriented left party and two smaller parties in the Val Alliance. Thus, you could collect the bonus that the election system contains and receive 340 of the chamber’s 630 seats. Reinforced with five mandates won among Italians abroad, the coalition’s total number of mandates was 345. However, the result was a disappointment for the party group. Grillo’s Five-Star Movement received the most votes, 25.5 percent, and 109 seats, of which one was added through the votes of the foreign Italians. The result was clearly better than expected. Berlusconi’s PDL also made a surprisingly good choice, but became only the third largest party with 21.5 percent of the vote and 97 seats. Another mandate was added through the result of voting among Italians abroad. In total, the center-right coalition captured 125 seats, including by giving Lega Nord 4 percent of the votes and 18 seats. That “With Monti for Italy” received only 10.5 percent of the vote and 49 seats, two of which were won by foreign Italians, was seen as a failure and a sign of how widespread dissatisfaction with the government’s Monti savings plans was.
In the election to the Senate, the result was even better for Berlusconi’s PDL and Lega Nord, which together received 30.7 percent of the vote and 117 seats (98 + 17). However, Bersani’s “Italy, the general good” also received more votes here, 31.6 percent and 123 seats, of which PD received 111. Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star Movement received 23.8 percent of the vote, but due to the design of the election system only 54 seats (17, 1 percent) and “With Monti for Italy” 9 percent of the vote and 19 seats. The result includes the mandate the parties obtained through voting among Italians abroad and in the special election in Valle d’Aosta.
In the Senate, the type of bonus to the largest party that exists in the Chamber of Deputies does not exist, and the election result thus did not provide the basis for a majority coalition, but the three major groups block each other and thus the formation of a government. The Grillos Five Star Movement cannot conceive of collaborating with any of the other party groups, and neither Bersani nor Berlusconi see any opportunity to form a large coalition between their parties. Since it is required that both chambers make similar decisions, ie that the government has the opportunity to support its decisions in both parliamentary chambers and the senate, Italy ended up in a new political crisis. One way to solve this problem was to announce new elections. President Napolitano expressed doubts about such a measure.
After several failed attempts to agree on a new president, the parties were forced to appoint outgoing President Napolitano for a new seven-year term. The president then appointed the deputy party leader for the left-middle party PD, 46-year-old Enrico Letta (born 1966), to form government. He thus became Italy’s youngest prime minister. Letta chose to form a new government consisting of several well-known politicians from both PD, Berlusconi’s PDL and Monti’s central party. Beppo Grillo’s Five Star Movement was left completely outside the government.
The new government comprised one-third of women, which was a larger proportion than ever before. In his government statement, Prime Minister Letta stated that the focus should be on economic growth and new jobs, not least to deal with the extensive unemployment among the country’s young people. The government declaration also included cuts in bureaucracy, combating corruption, improving social security and changes in the tax area.
However, the Prime Minister of Latvia did not get a proper chance to implement his reform plans. In December 2013, the mayor of Florence, 39-year-old Matteo Renzi, was elected new party leader for PD and it was only until February 2014 before he challenged Letta and forced a government reform. Renzi was named prime minister of Italy’s 65th government since World War II. He thus became the youngest holder of this record so far. Another record was broken by Renzi in that 50 percent of the ministers are women. This government also relied on the support of several smaller parties, which increased the risk of political instability.
The fact that Renzi lacked his own experience of work in both government and parliament was highlighted by some as a serious shortcoming, by others as an asset to the ambitious reform work promised. In addition to the goals set by the previous government, Renzi wanted to reform the electoral law, which would reduce the possibility of parliamentary seats for smaller parties. He criticized the too-old representation in the Senate and therefore wanted to reduce its role. With changes in the tax area and in business and industrial policy, the Renzi government wanted to promote economic growth and create new jobs. Initially, the government had been supported by several parties and also by Silvio Berlusconi, who refused to step down from the political scene in Italy. However, political commentators were concerned that this government, too,
In January, nearly 90-year-old President Napolitano announced that he wanted to retire due to age. In Parliament’s fourth ballot, Prime Minister Renzi’s candidate, the 73-year-old Sicilian and Judge Sergio Mattarella, who has been a minister in several Italian governments, were elected Italy’s twelfth president since the end of the Second World War.
The Renzi government had significant problems with its extensive economic reform program aimed at accelerating the growth of the Italian economy and lowering unemployment. Renzi’s desire for rapid change was shattered, which can be partly explained by increased political resistance and continued very high government debt. These factors also affected other reform programs. However, after several years of preparation, in 2015, a new election law was passed by Parliament. The law meant a reduced opportunity for small parties to gain political influence while strengthening large parties. This is achieved, among other things, by ensuring that the party with the most votes is guaranteed the majority (340 seats) that could previously be achieved mainly by party coalitions.
In parallel with this reform, the government presented a comprehensive proposal to amend the constitution. Among other things, the proposal meant that the Senate would have less influence in the legislative process, fewer members and that the national government’s political power would be strengthened at the expense of the regions. The reform did not receive support in both chambers of Parliament and fell, with Renzi announcing a referendum. The proposal was also voted down in the vote held on November 4, 2016. Following this double defeat, Renzi announced his immediate departure.
Renzi was replaced by Paolo Gentiloni (born 1954), also from the Democratic Party, as prime minister. The government base was the same as before. Renzi remained as chairman of the Democratic Party.
The major parties have in recent decades strived to change the electoral system in order to create block political competition that can give unified majority governments. In June 2017, the major parties seemed to have agreed on a voting system inspired by the German system. However, the proposal fell into a vote in the Chamber of Deputies.
Only in December 2017, that is, a few months before the 2018 parliamentary elections, the current constitution could be approved, which was supported in the vote by the Democratic Party, Forza Italia and Lega Nord. Italy has since had a mixed election system. Compare Italy (Electoral System).
In 2017, a number of prominent politicians broke out of the Democratic Party in protest against the direction chosen by Renzi. Former Prime Minister Massimo d’Alema (born 1949) and former anti-mafia prosecutor Pietro Grasso (born 1945) with several in the 2018 election were named Liberi e uguali (‘Free and Equal’).
Under the leadership of Matteo Salvini (born in 1973), the Northern Italian separatist party Lega Nord changed to only campaign as Lega. The party thus changed its profile to a lesser extent to push the issue of Northern Italy’s conditions to more strongly emphasize its criticism of the EU and immigration.
Luigi Di Maio (born 1986) was named the Five Star Movement candidate in September 2017 for the post of Prime Minister. Former foreground figure Beppe Grillo linked his blog from the movement’s website in early 2018, which was interpreted as more clearly distancing himself from current politics. Several new collaborations were initiated between smaller parties during the start of the electoral movement. A list led by Emma Bonino (born 1948) drew up a pro-European program under the name + Europe.
On December 28, 2017, President Sergio Mattarella dissolved the parliament and announced new elections until March 4, 2018. The election was sparked by speculation about which government could be formed after the election. The ruling party PD suffered from declining opinion figures, a trend that has been more or less intact since their very good results in the 2014 European elections. For the Five Star Movement, the opposite was the case for opinion development. In recent years, the party has seen success in several mayoral elections and despite criticism of its board managed to retain high public support.
A major theme of the election campaign was immigration and integration. Several parties profiled themselves with strongly critical views, not least Lega and Fratelli d’Italia, but also the Five Star Movement and Forza Italia. EU support for Italy for migrants who come to the country via the Mediterranean mainly for help was raised by most parties. Both the Five Star Movement and Lega have previously been deeply critical of the EU in general and EMU in particular, but both parties tinted their opposition during the election campaign. Since the financial and euro crisis, public opinion has remained more critical of the EU than before.
Although Silvio Berlusconi could not stand for election because of a convict in a tax case, he was Forza Italy’s dominant electoral engine. In his stead, President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani was launched as a possible candidate as prime minister. Forza Italy’s campaign message focused on a tax reform with the introduction of a so-called flat tax as the main element.
For the Left Democrats, minimum wages and increased unemployment benefits were important election promises. The five-star movement went ahead with a widespread political program, but focused in particular on younger voters with the promise of introducing citizen pay and improved conditions for students, among other things.
In the 2018 election, the five-star movement became the largest single party with 32.5 percent of the vote, which was an increase from 25.6 in the 2013 election. The right-wing coalition together received 37 percent of the vote. Lega became the largest party in the coalition with 17.4 percent of the vote – an increase of 13.3 percentage points from the 2013 election. Forza Italia gained 14 percent. In the 2013 elections, they went to elections as the House of Liberty and received 21.5 percent.
The unified left made its worst election result in the post-war period. The Democratic Party and its partners together received 22.8 percent of the vote. The newly formed Liberi e uguali (‘Free and Equal’) reached 3.4 percent of the vote. The Democratic Party lost almost seven percentage points from 2013, which led to party leader Matteo Renzi resigning as party leader.
There were no significant differences in party composition between the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. With the new electoral system, the biggest loser in terms of mandate was the Democratic Party, which lost 180 seats. The biggest winner in the number of seats was the Five Star Movement with an increase of 119 seats followed by Lega which increased by 108 seats in the Chamber, which were described as the winner of the election.
Subsequent government formation became difficult. Lega and the Five Star Movement, which were the only parties that together could achieve the necessary majority to form government, ended up on a collision course with President Sergio Mattarella. By using his veto, Mattarella refused to give Euro-skeptical Paolo Savona a seat as finance minister in the proposed government, including arguing that it would cause widespread financial instability.
A temporary government until a new election for a long time seemed to be the only solution to the government crisis, but after a reshuffle in the government, when Savona was moved to the post of EU minister, Mattarella approved the proposed government. Lega’s party leader Matteo Salvini (born in 1973), who during the negotiations appeared to be strategically skilled, was appointed Minister of the Interior. Five Star Movement Party leader Luigi Di Maio became Minister for Economic Development, Labor and Social Policy. Giuseppe Conte (born 1964) was appointed Prime Minister and Giovanni Tria (born 1948) was appointed Minister of Finance.
The Government was sworn in on June 1, 2018, and in the subsequent vote of confidence received support of 171 against the no page 117. The corresponding vote in the Chamber of Deputies meant 350 yes to 236 no. The government program includes a tighter migration policy, the introduction of a national salary and an upgraded pension reform. The policy objective is also changed rules for EMU cooperation, with less stringent rules for budget deficits and government debt. The government coalition was an EU perspective problematic as it is characterized by leading nationalists and EU critics.
The subsequent term of office became shaky. While support for Lega increased during the term of office, support for the Five Star Movement decreased. The 2019 European elections meant significant success for Lega. Government cooperation was also characterized by internal tensions. A cracking issue for the government parties was the plan for the country’s infrastructure where the parties’ views went wide apart.
Lega’s party leader, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, demanded the resignation of the government in the summer of 2019. In August 2019, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned following harsh criticism of Lega. Given the state of opinion, several other parties wanted to avoid a new election and after negotiations, the Five Star Movement and Partito Democratico (the “Democratic Party”, PD) could agree on a joint government program. Again, Giuseppe Conte was the candidate for prime minister you could agree on. He was given President Mattarella’s assignment to form a government built on the Five Star Movement and PD with the support of Liberi e Uguali (LeU). The new government was voted on in the House of Representatives and Senate on September 9 and 10,
For a more detailed account of the events in Italy after 1996 see Annual reports. Compare the History section.
The legal system in Italy is based almost entirely on statutory constitutional rules. Among the statutes, a prominent role is played by five major legislatures: the Civil Code, the Civil Procedure Act, the Criminal Code, the Criminal Procedure Act and the Maritime and Aviation Act. There is no special trade law, but its provisions have been incorporated into civil law since 1942. Civil law is significantly influenced by French law. In recent decades, the legal order has been greatly influenced by the country’s membership of the EU.
The judicial organization consists of two degrees of petty courts (Giudici di Pace and Pretori), general courts (Tribunali Civili e Penali), appellate courts (Corti di Appello) and a Supreme Court of Cassation (Corte di Cassazione) based in Rome. The Court of Cassation may only review the assessment of legal issues, not the assessment of facts. Very serious criminal cases are decided in the first instance with the jury’s help in the Corte d’Assise, which is a division of the Court of Appeal, in the second instance in the Corte d’Assise d’Appello and in the third instance in the Court of Cassation.
Italy also has a system of administrative courts (Tribunali Amministrativi Regionali) with the so-called Council of State (Consiglio di Stato) as the highest court. The constitutionality of the laws is tested by the Constitutional Court (Corte Costituzionale). The death penalty was abolished in 1994; the last execution took place in 1947.
The country has an extensive welfare system for the vast majority of the population. But despite strong protection of human and civil rights, there are shortcomings in several areas. Part of it is the handling of the many migrants who apply via Italy into Europe. In 2014, the authorities revoked the Italian rescue operation Mare Nostrum and replaced it with a resource-poor variant. The decision came to be criticized internationally for being a contributing cause of the increased mortality in the Mediterranean among refugees to Europe. Two major drowning disasters that together killed more than 1,000 people in the course of a week in April 2015 led to calls to resume rescue operations. At the same time, reports show that Italian authorities cannot secure suitable reception conditions for the large number of seaborne refugees and immigrants who arrive. The living conditions in the repositories that the country provides for undocumented immigrants have been poor.
Despite well-developed legislation, the incidence of violence against women is high, both inside and outside the home. According to US Department of Human Rights reports, nearly 30 percent of women in Italy are subjected to physical or sexual violence during their lifetime. The willingness to report is low due to social stigma.
Roma living in or visiting the country are largely exposed to violence, harassment and forced displacement. There is an anti-Semitic movement in the country that has carried out violent attacks.
Heads of State
|1861-78||Viktor Emanuel II|
|1900-46||Viktor Emanuel III|
|1946-48||Enrico De Nicola *|
|1992-99||Oscar Luigi Scalfaro|
|1999-2006||Carlo Azeglio Ciampi|
* acting president
Heads of government (council presidents/prime ministers)
|1861||Camillo di Cavour|
|1862-63||Luigi Carlo Farini|
|1867-69||Luigi Federico Menabrea|
|1891-92||Antonio di Rudinì|
|1896-98||Antonio di Rudinì|
|1898-1900||Luigi Girolamo Pelloux|
|1917-19||Vittorio Emanuele Orlando|
|1945-53||Alcide De Gasperi|
|1988-89||Ciriaco De Mita|
|1993-94||Carlo Azeglio Ciampi|