Political system of Italy

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The political system of the Italian state , which has existed since 1861, was originally organized in the form of a constitutional monarchy and has been structured as a parliamentary republic since 1946 .

Prehistory: the Kingdom of Italy

Carlo Alberto of Savoy signed the Albertine Statute on March 4, 1848

The modern Italian state emerged from the Wars of Independence and was founded on March 17, 1861, when Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed King of Italy. From the founding of the state until 1946, Italy was a constitutional monarchy .

State building

The Kingdom of Italy adopted the constitution of the Kingdom of Sardinia , which is also known as the "Albertine Statute" ( Statuto Albertino ) and was imposed on March 4, 1848 by the sovereign Carlo Alberto . The Albertine Statute remained in force until the Republican Constitution came into force on January 1, 1948.

Italy was a constitutional monarchy, even during the fascist dictatorship (1922–1943); almost all institutions remained formally intact.

As head of state, the king was significantly involved in all three state powers.

The legislative power belonged to the parliament, which, as today, was composed of two equal bodies, the Chamber and the Senate. While the Chamber was being elected, the Senators were appointed by the King. The king was also involved in the legislative initiative. During the fascist era, the chamber was renamed the Fascist Chamber of Estates (Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni) and a third legislative chamber was set up, the Grand Fascist Council (Gran Consiglio del Fascismo) .

The executive branch consisted of the ministers, who should only act as advisers to the king. However, a real government emerged with a prime minister in charge of parliament. The appointment was reserved for the king. This actually made it possible for Mussolini to come to power (see March on Rome ). During fascism, the prime minister was officially referred to as the Duce .

As for the judiciary, all judges were appointed by the king. This also exercised the right to pardon .

According to the constitution, the Roman Catholic faith was the state religion .

Electoral system

The electoral system originally provided for majority voting in two consecutive ballots. Since the right to vote was linked to a certain income limit ( census right to vote ), only 2% of the total population, around 400,000 citizens, had the right to vote in 1861.

On May 25, 1912 the law was extended (suffragio universale) : All male citizens who had reached the age of 21 and could read and write, as well as illiterate people who had reached the age of 30, were allowed to vote. In the elections on October 26th and November 2nd, 1913, 8.5 million Italians could vote, 27% of the population at the time. In 1919 proportional representation was introduced.

After Mussolini came to power at the end of 1922 (“ March on Rome ”), the Acerbo law conceived by Giacomo Acerbo was passed to consolidate his power : the party with the highest number of votes was to receive two thirds of the seats in parliament. The law applied to the 1924 elections . After the establishment of the dictatorship, the elections became a farce; one could only vote for the National Fascist Party .

Party system

Political fortunes were first determined in the 19th century by the Destra storica (historical right). The most important prime ministers from the economically liberal but conservative camp were Cavour , Minghetti and Sella . Since the mid-1870s, the Sinistra storica (historical left) took over the government, with Agostino Depretis and Francesco Crispi .

In the early 20th century, the liberals were the leading force; Giovanni Giolitti (1842–1928) was its most important representative.

In 1892 the PSI (Socialist Party of Italy) was founded, from which the PCI (Communist Party of Italy) split off in 1921 .

The priest Luigi Sturzo founded the Italian People's Party ( Partito Popolare Italiano ) in 1919 .

The years 1923 to 1945 of the kingdom were determined by the PNF (National Fascist Party) , which was founded in 1921 by the dictator Benito Mussolini, the longest-serving Prime Minister in Italian history.

The capitals of the kingdom

The first capital of Italy was Turin . In 1865 the capital was relocated to Florence . At that time Rome was not yet part of the Italian state. It was conquered in 1870 and became the capital in 1871 (details here ).

Kings of Italy

The four kings of Italy come from the House of Savoy , who were instrumental in the unification of the country and thus had a natural claim to the throne.

  • Victor Emmanuel II (not the first as the census of the Kingdom of Sardinia was retained) ruled from 1861 to 1878.
  • Umberto I remained king until 1900, before he was murdered by the anarchist Gaetano Bresci in Monza.
  • Victor Emmanuel III ruled from 1900 to 1946. He was also Emperor of Ethiopia and King of Albania.
  • Umberto II was king for only one month, in May 1946, but had held the dignity of governor since 1944. Many of the governor's royal decrees from 1944 to 1946 are still in force today.

The end of the monarchy

After the end of the fascist dictatorship and the Second World War, Italy also had to rebuild institutionally. The question of the future form of government played a central role. The House of Savoy was discredited by its significant involvement in Mussolini's rise to power, and many members of the House had performed important functions within the fascist regime. The king had also signed the racial laws against the Jews, which he could have refused in view of his position of power. Last but not least, the monarchy was discredited by the fact that it had abandoned the country after the armistice of 1943 and fled to safe Brindisi instead of facing its tasks in occupied Rome. Originally, the Constituent Assembly was supposed to decide the fate of the monarchy. Ultimately, however, the decision was left to the people.

After the proclamation of the republic, the royal family had to go into exile . The 13th transitional provision of the Italian constitution for a long time forbade the former kings of the House of Savoy, their wives and their male descendants from entering and staying on the national territory.

In 2002, on the initiative of the Alleanza Nazionale, a constitutional amendment law was passed that repealed this provision and since then has granted the members of the former royal house the right to vote and access to public office. The members of the House of Savoy continue to be denied claims to their previous property.

Origin of the Italian Republic


Referendum of June 2, 1946

On June 2, 1946, the Italians were called to a referendum on the form of government and elections to the Constituent Assembly.

28,005,449 Italian citizens were eligible to vote, of whom 24,946,878 voted, which corresponds to 89.1% of the eligible voters. For the first time women were also allowed to vote . The official result was announced on June 18, 1946 by the Court of Cassation:

  • 12,718,641 votes (54.27%) for the republic
  • 10,718,502 votes (45.73%) for the monarchy
  • 1,509,735 votes (6.44%) were invalid (1,146,729 of which were blank ballots).

With regard to the regional majority, Italy was practically divided into two camps: in the north the republic had won with 66.2%, in the south the monarchy came in at 63.8%.

Results of the referendum of June 2, 1946 by region
region republic monarchy total
voices % voices %
Piedmont 1,244,373 57.1 936.081 42.9 2,180,454
Liguria 633.821 69.0 284.116 31.0 917.937
Lombardy 2,284,580 64.1 1,279,748 35.9 3,564,328
Trentino 192.123 85.0 33.903 15.0 226.026
Veneto and Friuli 1,391,419 59.3 955.770 40.7 2,347,189
Emilia-Romagna 1,526,677 77.0 455.524 23.0 1,982,201
Tuscany 1,281,083 71.6 507,492 28.4 1,788,575
Brands 499,566 70.1 212,925 29.9 712.491
Umbria 298.196 71.9 116,321 28.1 414,517
Lazio 749.705 48.6 792.328 51.4 1,542,033
Abruzzo and Molise 347,650 43.1 459.249 56.9 806.899
Campania 438,492 23.5 1,426,392 76.5 1,864,884
Apulia 467.781 32.7 960.849 67.3 1,428,630
Basilicata 108,289 40.6 158.345 59.4 266,634
Calabria 338,959 39.7 514.344 60.3 853.303
Sicily 709.735 35.3 1,303,560 64.7 2,013,295
Sardinia 206.192 39.1 321,555 60.9 527.747
ITALY 12,718,641 54.3 10,718,502 45.7 23,437,143

A majority voted for the preservation of the Savoy monarchy : Latium , Abruzzo , Molise , Campania (peak value of 76.5%), Apulia , Basilicata , Calabria , Sicily and Sardinia . The royal family was staying in Naples at the time, and the peak value for the monarchy in the Campania region fits in with this.

There were majorities for the republic in: Piedmont , Aosta Valley , Liguria , Lombardy , Trentino (peak value of 85%), Veneto , Emilia-Romagna , Tuscany , Umbria and Marche . Almost three million Italians were unable to take part in the referendum: Italian prisoners of war; Italians in the colonies; Inhabitants of the provinces of Bolzano-South Tyrol , Trieste and Gorizia , whose international legal status had not yet been clarified, as well as 300,000 refugees from Julisch-Venetia ( Istria and part of Dalmatia , which fell to Yugoslavia). The top value for the Republic in Trentino is probably related to the leading Republican, the then Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi .

King Umberto II , also called Re di Maggio ("May King"), since he was actually only king in May 1946, went into exile on June 13, 1946.

June 2nd is the national holiday in Italy as the Festival of the Republic ( Festa della Repubblica ) .

Elections to the Constituent Assembly

Instead of the originally planned 573 MPs, 556 were elected because those of some provinces ( Bozen , Trieste , Gorizia ) were still missing. The election results:

Political party Voices (%) Seats
Democrazia Cristiana 35.18 207
Partito Socialista 20.72 115
Partito Comunista 18.97 104
Unione Democratica Nazionale 6.79 41
Fronte dell'Uomo Qualunque 5.28 30th
Partito Repubblicano 4.37 23
Blocco Nazionale della Libertà 2.77 16
Partito d'Azione 1.46 7th
Other 4.46 13


One of the three originals of the Constitution of the Italian Republic, kept in the historical archive of the Presidency of the Republic.

The Italian constitution , originally called La Costituzione della Repubblica Italiana , was passed on December 22, 1947, came into force on January 1, 1948 and is characterized by a compromise character that stems from the immediate post-war history: from the experience of the common resistance struggle against fascism ( " Resistance ") decided that together make up the "National liberation Committee" anti-fascist (liberal, socialist, communist and specifically catholic) parties to jointly draw up the new constitution.

Special features of the Italian constitution are

  • The central role of the Parliament ( two-chamber system , bicameralismo perfetto is admitted);
  • the comparatively low formal influence of the Prime Minister ;
  • the strong emphasis on plebiscitary elements (constitutional amendments may have to be confirmed by referendum , and citizens can also use referendums and legislative initiatives);
  • the powerful constitutional court ;
  • the decentralization in the course of reforms in the 1990s and early 2000s.

State building

The constitutional organs essentially correspond to those in other western democracies.

The five highest offices

The five highest office holders of the Italian Republic are, starting with the highest office (see also protocol order of precedence in Italy ):


  • the President of the Constitutional Court.

The highest government offices currently hold (February 2021):

Head of state

The Quirinal Palace , Rome,
seat of the President of the Republic

The head of state in Italy is the president (actually: President of the Republic , Italian : Presidente della Repubblica ). According to the constitutional norm, he mainly performs representative functions, participates in the formation of a government and is commander in chief of the armed forces . In the constitutional reality, it often plays a decisive role in overcoming government crises, which were much more frequent in the Italian Republic in the second half of the 20th century than in other European countries.

Its main power is to dissolve parliament (one or both). However, he may not exercise these in the last six months of his mandate, unless they fully or partially coincide with the last six months of the legislative period.

He has another important role in relation to legislation. Since every law requires the signature of the state president before it can be promulgated, he can at least temporarily prevent it from coming into force. If Parliament approves the law again, the Italian Constitution will force it to sign it. So he does not have a real right of veto.

The President is elected by the united chambers of parliament (parlamento in seduta comune) and representatives of the 20 regions: three per region, with the exception of the Aosta Valley , which can only send one representative. The election of the president takes place by secret ballot with a two-thirds majority of the assembly. After the third ballot, an absolute majority is sufficient. Any citizen who has reached the age of 50 can be elected.

The term of office of the president is seven years, re-election is legally possible, but no president has run for a second term until 2013. Due to the difficult majority situation after the Italian elections in 2013, Giorgio Napolitano ran in the sixth ballot and was confirmed in his office.

The powers of the President of the Republic are exercised by the President of the Senate in every case in which he cannot exercise them.

The first heads of state immediately after the abolition of the monarchy, but before the new constitution came into force (therefore only provisional), were Alcide De Gasperi and Enrico de Nicola; acting president is Sergio Mattarella.

President of the Republic since 1946

N. president Ballot of to Political party
Alcide de Gasperi 2.jpg Alcide De Gasperi 1 June 12, 1946 July 1, 1946 Democrazia Cristiana
I. Enrico De Nicola.jpg Enrico de Nicola 2 1 July 1, 1946 May 12, 1948 Partito Liberale Italiano
II LuigiEinaud.jpg Luigi Einaudi 4th May 12, 1948 May 11, 1955 Partito Liberale Italiano
III Giovanni Gronchi.jpg Giovanni Gronchi 4th May 11, 1955 May 11, 1962 Democrazia Cristiana
IV Antonio Segni Official.jpg Antonio Segni 9 May 11, 1962 December 6, 1964 3 Democrazia Cristiana
V Giuseppe Saragat.jpg Giuseppe Saragat 21 December 29, 1964 December 29, 1971 Partito Socialista Democratico Italiano
VI Presidente Leone.jpg Giovanni Leone 23 December 29, 1971 June 15, 1978 Democrazia Cristiana
VII Pertini ritratto.jpg Alessandro Pertini 16 July 9, 1978 June 29, 1985 Partito Socialista Italiano
VIII Cossiga Francesco.jpg Francesco Cossiga 1 3rd July 1985 April 28, 1992 Democrazia Cristiana
IX 8SCALFARO01gr.jpg Oscar Luigi Scalfaro 16 May 28, 1992 May 15, 1999 Democrazia Cristiana
X Ciampi ritratto.jpg Carlo Azeglio Ciampi 1 May 18, 1999 May 10, 2006 Non-party
XI Presidente Napolitano.jpg Giorgio Napolitano 4th May 10, 2006 April 20, 2013 Partito Democratico
6th April 20, 2013 January 14, 2015 3
XII Presidente Mattarella.jpg Sergio Mattarella 4th 3rd February 2015 Non-party
1 Provisional head of state.
2 Provisional head of state until December 31, 1947.
3 Stepped back.

legislative branch

houses of Parliament

Palazzo Madama , Rome, seat of the Italian Senate

The Italian Parliament consists of two chambers: the Senate (Senato della Repubblica) and the Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei deputati) . Both chambers have absolutely equal rights in the legislative process and only differ in terms of the number, composition and mode of election of their members. Both chambers meet independently of each other. In each chamber there are standing committees and special commissions, which are also independent of one another.

The Chamber of Deputies is the larger Chamber of Parliament, whose representatives are elected every five years. It currently consists of 630 MPs (including 12 representatives from Italians living abroad ), and as of the coming legislative period as a result of a constitutional reform, it will consist of 400 MPs (including eight for Italians living abroad).

The Senate of the Republic currently has 315 senators (including six for Italians living abroad), and 200 senators (including four for Italians living abroad) as of the coming legislative period as a result of a constitutional reform . They are also elected (at the same time as the MPs) for five years, but not on a national level, but on a regional basis. Each of the 20 regions has a fixed number of senators, which varies according to the population in the region.

In addition, there are a maximum of five senators appointed by the President for life . In addition, the state presidents are also legally senators for life after the end of their term of office. At present (February 2021) there are six senators in parliament for life, five of which are presidential-appointed senators and one is a former president.

Parliament in joint session

Palazzo Montecitorio , Rome, seat of the Chamber of Deputies

As an exception, MPs and senators meet in a joint session. The meeting takes place in Palazzo Montecitorio , the seat of the Chamber of Deputies. The President of the Chamber of Deputies accordingly chairs the “Parliament in joint session” (Parlamento in seduta comune) . The Italian Constitution stipulates exactly when Parliament will convene a joint assembly:

  • Election of the President of the Republic; In this case, the committee is expanded to include representatives from the regions (required quorum: two-thirds majority in the first three ballots, then absolute majority)
  • Election of five of the fifteen constitutional judges (required quorum: two-thirds majority in the first three ballots, then three-fifths majority)
  • Election of one third of the members of the Supreme Court of Justice (required quorum: two-thirds majority in the first three ballots, then three-fifths majority)
  • Election of lay judges for the indictment proceedings against the President of the Republic (every nine years a list of 45 lay judges is compiled; in the event of an indictment, 16 names are drawn by lot)
  • Taking the oath of the President of the Republic
  • Charges are brought against the President of the Republic

Ordinary legislation

The state legislation is in Italy first and foremost to Parliament.

Each individual MP or Senator , the government as a whole, the people (50,000 signatures), the regional councils and, in social and economic areas, the CNEL (The Italian Council for Economy and Labor) has a right of initiative .

Each law requires the approval of both chambers; a formal mediation process is not provided. The President must also sign every law before it can come into force. Since both chambers have to pass the same legal text, a normal legislative process often takes a long time. After every change that one of the chambers adopts to a draft, the amended draft must be submitted to the other chamber for a vote. If this in turn only passes the law with changes, these changes must also be confirmed by a new discussion and vote in the previous chamber. In this way, it is possible for individual drafts to be pushed back and forth between the two chambers of parliament for years before they can come into force. Laws can not only be passed by the plenary, but in exceptional cases also by the standing commissions.

This is why this regular legislative process takes a back seat at the state level. Instead, in Italy, acts with legal force (atti con forza di legge) are often enacted by the government, which are of two types:

  • Legislative decrees ( decreti-legge ; only partially similar to the German emergency ordinances ): The government can issue a decree “in cases of exceptional necessity” and have it subsequently converted into a law by parliament (Art. 77). Parliament must ratify the decree in this form within 60 days. If it is not ratified by Parliament, the decree loses its effectiveness retrospectively. In legislative practice, the emergency ordinance is regularly misused for purposes other than intended and without sanctions, since the factual exceptional necessity does not exist.
  • Legislative or legislative decrees sometimes also called enabling ordinances (decreti legislativi): Parliament enacts an enabling law (legge delega) and instructs the government to draft a decree (Art. 76). The main area of ​​application of this legislative process is technically complex areas. However, if it is otherwise unconstitutional, the decree must comply with the principles and guidelines of the authorization, be limited to the subjects specified therein and be adopted within the time specified in the Enabling Act . In the hierarchy of legal sources, these decrees have the same rank as the laws. The implementing provisions of the special statutes of the autonomous regions and provinces also take the form of a legislative decree . In this case, the authorization is contained directly in the special statutes; the decree must, incidentally, be approved by a so-called parity commission. In the hierarchy of legal sources, these decrees are below the constitutional level but above the simple legal level.

These decrees are laws in the material sense (leggi materiali) , in contrast to the formal laws (leggi formali) passed by parliament. Because the decrees are on an equal footing with the laws of parliament, they can, with a few exceptions, amend and repeal the parliamentary laws according to the current principles of derogation. Therefore, these decrees are not to be confused with the ordinances at the administrative level: the latter are always subject to the laws, cannot affect them and are not part of the legislative but of the executive. The ordinances (regolamenti) are issued at the state level by the government or by individual ministers, at the regional level by the competent bodies; The provinces and municipalities as well as all administrations also have the power to issue ordinances. Ordinances are mainly used for the implementation of laws, their specification and completion. The main area of ​​application is public administration.

In Italy, legislative power rests not only on the state but also on the regions . In the regions, legislative power is exercised by the regional councils (regional parliaments). The two autonomous provinces, South Tyrol and Trentino , have a special position in the Italian constitutional system and are on an equal footing with the regions: They too have legislative powers exercised by the respective state parliaments.

Legislative power (according to subject areas)

Exclusive legislation of the state

Based on the federalist view of enumerated powers, the Italian Constitution has since 2001 enumerated those areas in which the state as a whole has exclusive legislative power:

  • a) Foreign policy and international relations of the state; Relations of the state with the European Union; Right of asylum and legal status of citizens of states that do not belong to the European Union;
  • b) immigration;
  • c) Relations between the republic and religious denominations;
  • d) Defense and Armed Forces; State security; Weapons, ammunition and explosives;
  • e) currency, protection of saving and capital markets; Protection of competition; Monetary system; Tax system and accounting of the state; Harmonization of public budgets; Financial equalization;
  • f) organs of the state and corresponding electoral laws; state referendums; Election to the European Parliament;
  • g) Structure and organization of the administration of the state and the general government bodies;
  • h) public order and security, with the exception of the local administrative police;
  • i) Citizenship, civil status and population registers;
  • l) jurisdiction and rules of procedure; Civil and criminal legislation; Administrative jurisdiction;
  • m) Determination of the essential services within the framework of basic civil and social rights, which must be guaranteed throughout the national territory;
  • n) general provisions on teaching;
  • o) social security;
  • p) electoral legislation, government organs and basic tasks of municipalities, provinces and metropolitan cities;
  • q) Customs, protection of state borders and international preventive measures;
  • r) Weights, measures and time setting; Coordination of statistical information and IT coordination of data of state, regional and local administration; Intellectual works;
  • s) Environmental, ecosystem and cultural property protection.
Framework legislation
Building of the South Tyrolean Parliament in Bolzano

In the areas of framework legislation , the state lays down the essential principles of a subject area by means of a law called the framework law (legge cornice) . Each individual region or autonomous province is authorized to further develop and specify these principles through their own laws and thus to adapt them to their own needs. The laws of the regions or autonomous provinces contain so-called detailed norms (norme di dettaglio) . Because the state has mostly not enacted any relevant framework laws, the laws of the regions or autonomous provinces refer to the general principles of a subject area, which can be derived from the various state legal norms. This vagueness leads to numerous disputes before the Constitutional Court.

In Italian, the framework legislation is called competenza concorrente . However, this does not correspond to the competing legislation of the Federal Republic of Germany, but to the framework legislation that has now been abolished in the German legal system . The areas of framework legislation in Italy include:

  • The international relations of the regions and their relations with the European Union;
  • Foreign trade;
  • Occupational health and safety;
  • Teaching, without prejudice to the autonomy of school institutions and to the exclusion of theoretical and practical vocational training;
  • Jobs;
  • scientific and technological research and support for industry innovation;
  • Health protection;
  • Nutrition;
  • Sports legislation;
  • Civil defense;
  • Spatial planning;
  • Ports and civil airports;
  • large transport and shipping networks;
  • Regulation of communications;
  • Production, transportation and national distribution of energy; Supplementary and supplementary provision;
  • Coordination of public finances and the tax system;
  • Appreciation of cultural and environmental goods and promotion and organization of cultural activities;
  • Savings banks;
  • Agricultural banks, credit institutions of a regional character;
  • Land and agricultural credit bodies of a regional nature.
Legislation of the regions and the autonomous provinces

The Italian regions or the autonomous provinces have legislative power in all areas that are not expressly reserved for national legislation. The areas of regional legislative power basically include: transport, road network, water pipes and water resources, public works of regional interest, construction and urban planning, order of regional offices, local administrative police, social services, vocational training, trade, industry, trade fairs, tourism, crafts, Quarries and peat bogs, agriculture and forestry, inland fishing, hunting.

Other areas that are assigned to the exclusive legislative power (competenza esclusiva) of the regions or autonomous provinces are provided for in the so-called special statutes of the autonomous regions .

The far-reaching powers of the regions and autonomous provinces according to the wording of the constitution or the special statutes are interpreted restrictively by the Constitutional Court. On the other hand, the powers of the state are interpreted very extensively, for example the establishment of essential services within the framework of civil and social fundamental rights, which must be guaranteed throughout the national territory, reserved for the state, environmental protection, protection of competition, civil legislation. According to the case law of the Constitutional Court, these represent so-called cross-sectional competencies (competenze trasversali) , which enable the state to penetrate into areas that at first glance would be reserved for the regions or autonomous provinces.

Legislation at the constitutional level

Laws amending the constitution (constitutional amendment laws, leggi di riforma costituzionale ) and other constitutional laws (leggi costituzionali) are passed by the chambers with two votes each, between which there must be at least three months.

If a constitutional (amending) law is approved in the second vote by both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate with a two-thirds majority, it comes into force immediately. Otherwise a referendum may be required.

The republican form of government must not be subject to constitutional reform.

Referendums and referendums

The following referenda are held at the state level:

The "abrogative or abrogative referendum" (referendum abrogativo) has the legal force of a binding referendum for the purpose of repealing a law or a legislative measure with the force of law (legal or legislative decree) or a part thereof:

  • The suspension is subject to a referendum if so requested by five hundred thousand voters or by five regional councils .
  • A referendum is inadmissible for tax and budget laws as well as for laws that deal with an amnesty, a pardon or the authorization to conclude international treaties .
  • Every citizen who is entitled to vote for the Chamber of Deputies, i.e. every 18-year-old citizen, has the right to participate in referendums.
  • The proposal submitted to the referendum is considered accepted if the majority of those entitled to vote participate (50% of those entitled to vote + 1 additional person entitled to vote, so-called quorum ) and the majority of the validly cast votes is achieved.

So far (as of February 2021) 67 revoking referendums have taken place, which were passed in 23 cases with the required quorum, which has led to the repeal of the provisions concerned.

The "consultative or advisory referendum" (referendum consultivo) is a simple, non-binding referendum . According to Article 132 of the Constitution, there are two types:

  • After consulting the regional councils , the merging of existing regions or the creation of new regions can be ordered , whereby each new region must have a population of at least one million inhabitants. Such a reorganization can take place if a number of municipal councils representing at least a third of the affected population so requests and if the application is accepted by the majority of the affected population through a referendum.
  • The detachment of a province or a municipality from a region and its annexation to another region can - with the consent of the majority of the population of the affected province or provinces or the affected municipality or municipalities - at the request of the affected provinces and municipalities , after hearing the regional councils , by a referendum and by a law of the republic.
Such a survey finally took place on October 28th and 29th, 2007: The municipalities of Cortina d'Ampezzo , Colle Santa Lucia and Livinallongo del Col di Lana voted with 78% of the votes for the outsourcing from the Veneto region to the Autonomous Region of Trentino- South-Tirol. The Italian Parliament, which has the final say on this matter, has so far been inactive.

The "confirmative or confirmatory referendum" (referendum confermativo) , also called constitutional referendum ( referendum costituzionale ), is also a referendum, the outcome of which is binding:

  • Constitutional amendment laws and other constitutional laws are then such a confirmative, i.e. H. subject to a confirmatory referendum if one fifth of the members of a chamber or 500,000 voters or five regional councils so request within three months of its publication .
  • The constitutional amendment law or constitutional law that has been put to a referendum is only promulgated if it has received the approval of the majority of all valid votes. Unlike in the case of a revoking referendum, a minimum participation is not required.
  • A referendum will only not be allowed if the constitutional amendment law or constitutional law has received the approval of two thirds of the members in each case in the second vote in the chambers.

So far (as of February 2021) four constitutional referenda have taken place, two of which have been accepted and two have been rejected:

  • The referendum of October 7, 2001 on the extensive regionalization of Italy was passed with 64.21% yes-votes.
  • The constitutional reform advocated by the Berlusconi government to strengthen the Prime Minister, introduce a constructive vote of no confidence, transform the Senate into a kind of Federal Council and further federalization, was rejected by a majority in 2006 (61.29% no votes).
  • The constitutional reform passed by the Renzi government in 2016 , which was supposed to lead to a far-reaching reform of the Senate and a redistribution of powers between the state and regions in favor of the state (59.12% against), also failed .
  • The constitutional referendum of September 20 and 21, 2020 on the downsizing of the two chambers of parliament was adopted with 69.96% yes-votes.

Further referenda are planned at regional and local level. They must be permitted in the regional statutes or municipal statutes. However, the mayor can also call a consultation (consultazione) independently of such a provision .

Summary: Italian hierarchy of norms

  1. Constitution, constitutional amendment laws, constitutional laws
  2. Laws (of the state, the regions, the autonomous provinces), decrees, revoking referendum
  3. Regulations
  4. Uses: The civil code only allows usages if they are mentioned by a law (consuetudini secundum legem) . There are also customs in which there are no laws (consuetudini praeter legem) . There are also constitutional customs , for example when forming a government (see below).


Palazzo Chigi , Rome, seat of government

After the experience of fascism , the fathers of the Italian constitution wanted to create the most effective system of mutual control between the constitutional organs in the new republic. This results in a relatively weak position of the government in Italian politics.

The government is officially called the Council of Ministers (Italian: consiglio dei ministri or simply consiglio ), the Prime Minister operates as the “ President of the Council of Ministers ”, in Italian also presidente del consiglio (dei ministri) . If one only speaks of the "President", both the State President and the Prime Minister can be meant.

The ministers are jointly responsible for the actions of the Council of Ministers and individually for the actions of their portfolio. The ministers are appointed by the President of the Republic on the proposal of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister does not have the power to appoint or dismiss ministers independently.

The Prime Minister determines the general policy of the government and takes responsibility for it. He maintains the uniformity of the direction in politics and administration by promoting and coordinating the activities of the ministers. Because of the dependency on the often unstable political majority, the Prime Minister, as the “Chairman of the Council of Ministers”, is often only viewed as primus inter pares .

As a collegiate body, however, the Council of Ministers plays a prominent role in the Italian constitutional system, particularly in the legislative process :

  • he prepares bills ,
  • he issues legislative decrees, which must then be converted into laws by parliament so that the legislative decrees retain their effectiveness,
  • it is mandated by parliament to draft laws within certain framework conditions through empowering laws and can, in this respect, issue so-called legal decrees.

In the phase of government formation after a government crisis or after elections, the state president plays an important role: he consults the parliamentary groups of the parties represented in parliament and then assigns a promising candidate to form a government. In turn, the latter must try to find a majority for his government in consultations with parliamentary groups and parties. After the successful completion of this consultation phase, the President-elect of the Council of Ministers presents the President-elect with a list of ministers that the President normally accepts. The new Council of Ministers then meets for its first session, decides on a government program and faces the vote of confidence in both chambers of parliament. They can withdraw their trust in the government at any time, which then usually leads to a new government crisis.

A special characteristic of Italian politics are the frequent changes of government since the end of the Second World War. The reasons for this can be cited, for example:

  • The recurring fragmentation of the Italian political landscape often makes coalitions with numerous parties necessary; In the event of differences of opinion between the governing parties, the government crisis is repeatedly used as a means of exerting pressure on the other coalition partners.
  • In the rarest of cases, the prime minister is also the chairman of his own party. Such a situation is not infrequently associated with a loss of power that can induce individual MPs to vote against their own government in a vote of confidence.
  • The de facto weak position of the Prime Minister means that in the event of conflicts within the Council of Ministers, the formation of a new government is often used as a means of resolving differences of opinion.

Composition of the government

Mario Draghi ,
Prime Minister since February 13, 2021

The government in the strict sense, i.e. the Council of Ministers, consists of the Prime Minister, the ministers with a portfolio and an indefinite number of ministers without a portfolio (ministri senza portafoglio) who have a seat and full voting rights, but do not head their own portfolio .

The government in the broader sense also consists of the vice ministers and the state secretaries (sottosegretari di Stato) . Among the latter, the State Secretary to the Prime Minister is the most important, especially since he determines the minutes of the Council of Ministers.

The Draghi cabinet is currently in office .

Vote of confidence and no confidence; the government crisis

Within ten days of its formation, the government presents itself to the chambers to maintain their trust .

If the government is withdrawn from parliament, even by a single chamber, it must resign (so-called parliamentary crisis ). This can be done in two ways:

  • A motion of no confidence is put forward by at least one tenth of the members of a chamber. The application is approved.
  • The government puts the vote of confidence on the passing of a law (the big advantage is that it does not allow amendments and the passage goes faster). The law is not approved.

Only two governments fell through the vote of no confidence in the history of the Republic of Italy : the Prodi I cabinet in 1998 and the Prodi II cabinet in 2008.

In all other cases an extra-parliamentary crisis has arisen due to "voluntary" resignation (decided by the parties outside parliament).

The "technical" government

The technical government (governo tecnico) is a government appointed by the state president, which is characterized by the fact that the prime minister and possibly also the ministers are non-party experts and experts from state officials or from the private sector. Such a government is formed when there is a serious political crisis, for example after the overthrow of a government, and important reforms have to be adopted. A technical government can only come about if a broad parliamentary base can be found. It is usually only a temporary government.

  • The first technical government was formed by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi , then governor of the Italian central bank ( Ciampi cabinet ). He took over the post of Prime Minister in 1993, amid the collapse of Italy's previous party system ( Mani pulite / Tangentopoli ). An electoral reform was implemented during his tenure. In the spring of 1994, new elections were finally held.
  • A purely technical government with ministers without exception was formed by Lamberto Dini , also a senior official of the central bank. After the fall of Silvio Berlusconi, Dini ruled from January 1995 to May 1996. The Dini cabinet stabilized the lira and passed an important pension reform. Elections were held again in April 1996. Dini continued the official business until the first Prodi government was sworn in.
  • The Monti cabinet under Mario Monti was such a technical government that, after the previous Berlusconi government had lost power, took over the affairs of state in order to prevent the country from sliding further into ever-increasing debt (November 2011 - April 2013).
  • The Draghi cabinet , which has been in office since February 13, 2021, under the leadership of Mario Draghi, former President of the European Central Bank and former Governor of the Italian Central Bank , was formed during the COVID-19 pandemic and consists of non-party experts and representatives from the broad spectrum of parties that the government supports.

It is also not uncommon for individual “technical”, non-party ministers to be deployed within a political government. Diplomat Renato Ruggiero became foreign minister and doctor Girolamo Sirchia became minister of health in the Berlusconi cabinet, and economist Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa was finance minister in the second Prodi government.

Italian Prime Minister since 1946

Last but not least, one should take into account that despite frequent changes of government, especially during the so-called First Republic, there is a certain personal continuity when one considers the governments as a whole. One could speak of a frequent rotation of the chairmanship in the Council of Ministers; it is by no means always a question of completely new governments. The 67 governments since the end of World War II have therefore had 30 different prime ministers.

The last parliamentary elections took place on March 4, 2018.

Days in office (total) a Prime Minister Party b Number of Governments
1. 3297 Silvio Berlusconi FI d , PDL 4th
2. 2496 Alcide De Gasperi DC 7 e
3. 2226 Giulio Andreotti DC 7 f
4th 2074 Aldo Moro DC 5
5. 1492 Romano Prodi L'Ulivo 2
6th 1389 Amintore Fanfani DC 6 f
7th 1272 Bettino Craxi PSI 2
8th. 1044 Antonio Segni DC 2
9. 1019 Matteo Renzi PD 1
10. 0954 Giuseppe Conte independent 2
11. 0925 Mariano Rumor DC 5
12th 0700 Giuliano Amato PSI g , L'Ulivo h 2
13th 0542 Massimo D'Alema DS 2
14th 0527 Emilio Colombo DC 1
15th 0497 Mario Scelba DC 1
16. 0487 Giovanni Spadolini PRI 2
17th 0467 Paolo Gentiloni PD 1
18th 0405 Francesco Cossiga DC 2
19th 0401 Ciriaco De Mita DC 1
20th 0400 i Mario Monti independent 1
21. 0396 Adone Zoli DC 1
22nd 0359 Lamberto Dini independent 1
23 0353 Carlo Azeglio Ciampi independent 1
24. 0292 j Enrico Letta PD 1
25th 0285 Giovanni Leone DC 2
26 0227 Giovanni Goria DC 1
27 0220 Arnaldo Forlani DC 1
28. 0141 Giuseppe Pella DC 1
29 0116 Fernando Tambroni DC 1
30th 108
(since February 13, 2021) c
Mario Draghi independent 1
a Without a provisional term of office after the resignation
b Affiliation at the time of exercising office
c current government
d first, second and third government
e one immediately failed due to the vote of confidence
f two immediately failed because of the vote of confidence
G first government
H second government
i until resignation on December 21, 2012
j until his resignation on February 14, 2014

Important ministries and ministers


Judiciary of Italy.jpg
Court organization in Italy:
  • primo grado : first instance
  • secondo grado : second instance
  • ultimo grado : last instance;
  • materia penale : criminal law
  • materia civile : civil law
  • materia amministrativa : administrative law

The Justice knows a large degree of formal independence in Italy: Judges and prosecutors are thus in no way linked to the transfer of the executive and not the Ministry of Justice assumed.

Ordinary jurisdiction

The ordinary jurisdiction consists of 9,038 ordinary judges and public prosecutors (as of February 2021). The entrance examination, a competition that usually takes place annually and in which between 300 and 400 jobs are advertised across Italy, is the same for judges and prosecutors. Then they can choose one of the two career paths. However, there is always the option of changing to another office, even if the hurdles have been tightened. Judges and prosecutors are called magistrati ( magistrates ). Honorary judges and prosecutors appointed outside of this competition are called magistrati onorari .

All decisions about the members of the ordinary judiciary (including the public prosecutor's office) are made by a collegial self-governing body, the “ Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura ” (CSM, German Supreme Council of the Judiciary ). This consists of 24 elected members (two-thirds elected by the judiciary, one-third by parliament in joint session) and three members by law: the President of the Republic, the President of the Court of Cassation and the General Procurator at the Court of Cassation.

Responsibilities and structure
Seat of the Italian Court of Cassation in Rome

The ordinary jurisdiction is responsible for civil and criminal disputes. Labor law disputes are also brought before these courts.

The “Friedensgericht” (Giudice di pace) decides in the first instance on legal disputes with a small amount in dispute, but also has certain criminal functions. It consists of honorary judges who judge as single judges.

The “regional court” (tribunal) decides as a single judge or as a collegial court and is divided into civil and criminal senates. In numerous cases, it decides as the body of first instance. In addition, it decides in the second instance on judgments which the justice of the peace have made in the first instance.

The “Higher Regional Court” ( Corte d'appello ) always decides as a collegial body and has to rule on the contestation of judgments of the regional courts in the area of ​​civil and criminal law. In all regions with the exception of the Aosta Valley there is at least one higher regional court with its seat in the regional capital. There are even four seats in Sicily: in addition to Palermo, there are also Caltanissetta, Catania and Messina.

The “Jury Court ” (Corte d'assise) is responsible for particularly serious criminal offenses. In addition to professional judges, lay judges also judge. Their judgments can be challenged before the “Appeal Court of Appeal” (Corte d'assise d'appello) .

The “Court of Cassation” ( Corte di cassazione ) is the highest judicial body with its seat in Rome and decides in the last instance.

The extremely long duration of the proceedings is considered to be the greatest problem of ordinary jurisdiction. In criminal proceedings, the long procedures mean that numerous violations and offenses become statute-barred because the deadlines are neither interrupted nor inhibited during the ongoing process. In civil proceedings, the situation is even more tense: Ordinary first instance proceedings take an average of 980 days, and another 1405 days are due for appeal. According to the World Bank, Italy ranks 122nd worldwide in terms of the speed and efficiency of decisions on contractual disputes between companies. Labor law proceedings are progressing a little more quickly: 760 days in the first instance, 814 in the second instance. Traffic accidents linger at least 500 days before the justice of the peace.

More dishes

The “Regional Administrative Courts” ( Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale , TAR ) are responsible for administrative matters in the first instance and the “Council of State” ( Consiglio di Stato ) , usually as the second instance (in individual cases also first instance).

The specially established “tax commissions” (Commissioni tributarie) judge taxes . These only partly consist of professional judges: lawyers and tax advisors are also used as judges. There are provincial (first instance) and regional tax commissions (second instance).

There is also the “Court of Auditors” ( Corte dei conti ) , which is responsible for matters relating to pension provision and official liability; the “court for public waters”; the " military courts ".

There are also self-governing bodies specially set up for these courts.

Constitutional jurisdiction

For the constitutional jurisdiction is Italian Constitutional Court (Corte Costituzionale) responsible. It consists of 15 members. One third is appointed by the President, another third by Parliament in joint session, the remaining five members are elected by the highest courts, among the incumbent or retired judges of the highest ordinary and administrative courts, under full professors of law and under Lawyers with at least twenty years of professional experience. The term of office is nine years. No further term of office is possible.

The Constitutional Court decides on the compatibility of laws and acts with the force of law of the state and the regions (and the autonomous provinces ) with the constitution. If it declares this to be unconstitutional, the acts in question lose their effectiveness retrospectively . Often, however, the judgments are not limited to revoking files. In so-called “additive judgments” (sentenze additive) , also called “manipulative judgments” (sentenze manipolative) , de facto new legal provisions arise.

The court can be called directly ("direct appeal", ricorso diretto ):

  • by the state (against a regional law or statute or the law of an autonomous province);
  • from a region (against acts of law from the state, another region, an autonomous province);
  • from an autonomous province (against acts of law from the state, one region, the other autonomous province).

Private individuals cannot lodge a direct constitutional complaint. Italy's constitutional court, on the other hand, can be called on by any court (“indirect appeal”, ricorso indiretto ) if a question of constitutionality arises within a process, even at the suggestion of a party, and the court considers this to be relevant for the decision.

The Constitutional Court also decides in disputes over jurisdiction between the highest state organs; between the state and the regions and between different regions (when it comes to administrative skills).

The court also judges the President of the Republic after the parliament has brought charges of high treason and breach of the constitution. In this case, the constitutional court will be expanded to include 16 lay judges.

It also decides on the admission of an abrogative referendum . This competence was granted to the Constitutional Court by a constitutional law (Constitutional Law of March 11, 1953, No. 1).

Electoral system

The active right to vote for the Chamber are generally entitled to any Italians over 18 years, for the Senate the voting age is 25 years. The passive suffrage is every Italians over the age of 25 years to the election to the Chamber of Deputies, from the age of 40, for election to the Senate.

While proportional representation was in effect until 1993, which had not changed much for decades, there have been several fundamental changes since then. From 1993 to 2005 three quarters of the members of parliament were elected by majority vote and the remaining quarter by proportional representation. Majority and proportional representation were not completely separated. From 2005 to 2013 an electoral system was in place in which the seats were distributed proportionally, but the coalition or individual party with the largest number of votes was guaranteed 55% of the seats. After this regulation was declared unconstitutional in 2013 and this was partly the case with a successor regulation passed in 2015, a fundamentally new electoral system was introduced again in 2017. According to this, three eighths of the seats are distributed according to a relative majority vote in a single constituency and five eighths proportionally, with a 3% hurdle for the proportional seats.

Party system

Traditionally, the political events in Italy are divided into two main phases, which essentially correspond to the development of the party system:

  • the First Republic, prima repubblica (1946 to 1994)
  • the Second Republic, seconda repubblica , since 1994.

Unlike in France, for example, the transition from the First to the Second Republic is not due to a new constitution, but to a series of political events, in particular the downfall of the previously established parties, under the influence of the judiciary and accompanied by some reforms, such as the electoral law.

The upheavals in Italy's political landscape since the parliamentary elections in 2013 are in some cases already assigned to a new political phase known as the Third Republic, terza repubblica .

First republic

Giulio Andreotti

The political history since the end of the Second World War was determined by the parties of the so-called constitutional arch (arco costituzionale) until the beginning of the 1990s . This included those parties that had drafted the Italian constitution in the spirit of anti-fascism and committed themselves to its ideals:

The neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) was not part of the constitutional arch.

The party with the largest number of votes and the most powerful were the Italian Christian Democrats, who held constant government responsibility until 1992 and provided almost all of the prime ministers. Giovanni Spadolini from the ranks of the Partito Repubblicano Italiano became the first non-Christian Democratic Prime Minister after the Second World War in 1981. The better known non-Christian Democratic prime minister was Bettino Craxi .

The First Republic was shaped by “stable instability”. Although numerous governments alternated (66 to date), the main issue was a redistribution of ministerial posts among the same personalities. The longest-serving Prime Ministers were Alcide De Gasperi and Giulio Andreotti , both of whom led seven governments and who had been in office for 2,496 (6.8) and 2,226 (6) days (years), respectively. Aldo Moro , murdered by the Red Brigades , was himself head of government in five different cabinets.

Although the electoral law provided practically no threshold clauses and small splinter groups with only one or two representatives in parliament were represented, the number of governing parties remained rather limited:

  • Immediately after the proclamation of the Italian Republic, all anti-fascist parties were involved in the government, Christian Democrats, Socialists and Communists (1946–1947). The only opposition was initially the Fronte dell'Uomo qualunque (such as the Jedermann Front), in which many supporters and followers of the fascist regime found a new political home (before the establishment of the Movimento Sociale Italiano ). In 1947 socialists and communists left the government and formed a social-communist popular front.
  • After the defeat of the Social Communist Popular Front in the parliamentary elections in 1948 , a centrist alliance of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Liberals and Republicans in various compositions ruled until 1963 (centrismo) . The opposition was formed by the neo-fascists alongside the former social communist popular front. The latter tolerated Fernando Tambroni's centrist cabinet , which remained in office for five months in 1960.
  • Between 1963 and 1976 the socialists were integrated into the changing governments of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and Republicans (so-called centro-sinistra or center-left phase). Most of the liberals remained in the opposition.
  • Between 1976 and 1978 the historical compromise between Christian Democrats and Communists existed, Giulio Andreotti formed a purely Christian Democratic government of national solidarity with tolerance of the Communists to fight the Red Brigades
  • After a transition phase, with the formation of the government of Giovanni Spadolini in 1981, the Pentapartito came into being, a coalition of five made up of Christian Democrats, Socialists, Social Democrats, Republicans and Liberals. Communists and neo-fascists remained in the opposition, according to the Christian Democratic (almost without exception) rule of the conventio ad excludendum : to hold coalition talks with all parties, but not with the communists and the neo-fascists.

At the regional and local level, however, the communist party took over government responsibility early on: numerous regional presidents, especially in central Italy (Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Umbria), and mayors in large cities belonged to the party. For decades the Communist Party was the second strongest force in the country and the largest Marxist movement in what was then the western world. This also contributed to the fact that the communist party distanced itself more and more from Soviet communism , instead developing the idea of Eurocommunism , which provided for a transition to socialism on the basis of democratic majority decisions, and supported the parliamentary-democratic system of Italy even in times of crisis.

The two largest parties of the First Republic, Christian Democrats and Communists, always garnered between 60 and 80% of the vote. The Christian Democrats achieved their best result in the parliamentary elections in 1948 with 48.5%.

The transition phase

As a result of the judicial investigations known under the name Mani pulite ( German clean hands, analogously white vest ), a network of corruption, abuse of office and illegal party financing on a political level was uncovered in the early and mid-1990s. The investigation led to the collapse of the Christian Democratic and Socialist parties. The criminal links that were uncovered by the investigations are called " Tangentopoli " (from Tangente , bribe).

The party system changed very clearly: Not only did the Christian Democrats and Socialists, which were particularly affected by corruption scandals, disband, the Social Democrats, Republicans and Liberals also almost completely disappeared into insignificance, in the Communist Party it came after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of " real existing socialism " in Eastern Europe to a reorientation or division.

Various parties emerged from the Christian Democratic Party, the Balena Bianca (white whale, as it was called): the Christian-social Partito Popolare Italiano (PPI), which later became part of the Margherita ; the Cristiano Sociali (Christian Socials), who later merged into the Democratici di Sinistra (Left Democrats); the more conservative Centro Cristiano Democratico (CCD) and Cristiani Democratici Uniti (CDU), which later formed the Unione di Centro (UDC). From the Communist Party emerged essentially: the Partito Democratico della Sinistra (PDS), which later called itself Democratici di Sinistra (Left Democrats), and the new communist foundation, Rifondazione Comunista (PRC) under Fausto Bertinotti .

During the collapse of the political system of the first Italian Republic, the Northern League developed into a political force in northern Italy and won 8.7% of the votes in Italy's parliamentary elections in 1992 . The anti-Mafia movement La Rete was founded at this time .

After two (abrogative) electoral law referenda in 1991 and 1993, a new electoral system was introduced in 1993. Mariotto Segni was one of the main initiators of the referendums . A dominant majority electoral component was combined with a weaker proportional electoral component (see chapter "Electoral system"). This electoral system was first used in the 1994 parliamentary elections . It no longer applies.

Second republic

Italy's party system in transition 1992–1995


Silvio Berlusconi, the election winner in 1994, 2001 and 2008
Romano Prodi, the 1996 and 2006 election winner

In the run-up to the parliamentary elections in 1994, two new political blocs emerged which were to determine the political fortunes of Italy up to the parliamentary elections in 2013.

A center-right bloc (centro-destra) was formed around the media entrepreneur Silvio Berlusconi , and a center-left alliance (centro-sinistra) formed around the former communist party . The new block formation did not run along the party lines that were known from the First Republic.

The strongest newcomer to the Italian party landscape then became Forza Italia , founded by Silvio Berlusconi , which was home to both former socialists (such as Giulio Tremonti , later Minister of Finance, and Franco Frattini , later Foreign Minister) and former Christian Democrats (such as the President of the Lombardy Region Roberto Formigoni ). It won the 1994 elections just a few months after it was formed.

The neo-fascist MSI was integrated into the center-right bloc and transformed into the right-wing conservative Alleanza Nazionale under the leadership of Gianfranco Fini . Smaller parties such as the Fiamma Tricolore , which was sometimes able to send a MEP to Strasbourg, or the Forza Nuova took over the neo-fascist legacy .

The Lega Nord , which initially set itself the secession of northern Italy as a political goal and later advocated federalization of Italy, participated in the center-right alliance in 1994, 2001, 2006 and 2008. In the 1996 parliamentary elections , she ran as an independent force outside the blocs.

In addition to the former communists of the PDS / Left Democrats, the center-left camp also included the former Christian Democrats of La Margherita and their predecessor parties, as well as smaller parties such as Socialisti Democratici Italiani (Socialists) and Federazione dei Verdi (Greens). The Italia dei Valori , the party of the former Mani Pulite prosecutor Antonio Di Pietro , was also part of this camp. The Rifondazione Comunista was at times also part of the center-left coalition. With Massimo D'Alema of the Left Democrats, a post-communist became Prime Minister of Italy for the first time (1998), and Giorgio Napolitano was elected President of the Republic in 2006 as a former member of the Communist Party.

As a result, the government camps were more fragmented than before. The electoral law reform of 2005, which introduced a majority proportional representation system, did nothing to change this. The smallest factions had a decisive role and a de facto veto right within the coalitions. The exit from the coalition of the Popolari-Unione Democratici per l'Europa led to the fall of the Prodi II cabinet .

While the two largest parties of the First Republic, Christian Democrats and Communists, won between 60 and 80% of the electorate, the most elected parties of the Second Republic between 1994 and 2008, Forza Italia and the Left Democrats, did not come together once for 50% of the votes cast. In addition, there was a strong polarization and (especially verbal) radicalization between the camps, which, due to the nature of the electoral law, sometimes had to look for right-wing extremist and left-wing extremist allies.

In contrast to the First Republic, which was characterized by more than forty years of government continuity around the Christian Democrats, none of the initially victorious coalitions of the Second Republic managed to win immediate re-election: The center-right camp around Silvio Berlusconi won the 1994 and 2001 elections (with the coalitions Polo delle Libertà , Pol der Freiheit, or Casa delle Libertà , House of Freedoms), the center-left camp with the top candidate Romano Prodi prevailed in the elections in 1996 (with the coalition name L'Ulivo , olive tree) and 2006 (with the coalition name L'Unione , Union).


After the parliamentary elections in 2008 , there was a consolidation of the Italian party spectrum. Although more than 100 parties ran for this election, the majority of them were not part of any coalition or list, which made it practically impossible to overcome the threshold clauses. The reason for this simplification process was the announcement by the center-left top candidate Walter Veltroni that he would no longer enter into a coalition with the extreme left or other parties such as the socialists. Veltroni only forged an alliance with Antonio Di Pietros Italia dei Valori. This example was followed by his adversary Berlusconi, who limited himself to an alliance with the Lega in the north and with the Movimento per l'Autonomia in the south.

This enabled the number of parties represented in parliament to be significantly reduced. The victorious center-right bloc included the Popolo della Libertà , or PDL (People of Freedom) for short, the Lega Nord and the Movimento per l'Autonomia (MPA), a southern Italian autonomy movement that had its stronghold in Sicily. The Popolo della Libertà was a center-right party that resulted from the merger of Forza Italia, Alleanza Nazionale and smaller splinter parties such as the Democrazia Cristiana per le Autonomie, the Nuovo Partito Socialista Italiano and the Azione Sociale of Alessandra Mussolini (granddaughter of Benito Mussolini ) originated.

The center-left camp consisted of Partito Democratico (PD), which emerged from the merger of left-wing democrats and La Margherita, and Italia dei Valori (IDV), with radical politicians also running in the ranks of the PD . The Italian Radical Party was founded in 1955, co-founded by Marco Pannella .

Outside of the two large camps, only the centrist Unione di Centro (UDC, Center Union ), a list of the Unione dei Democratici Cristiani e Democratici di Centro , Rosa per l'Italia and smaller splinter parties, managed to enter parliament, albeit again with significant losses . This in turn did not succeed the radical left La Sinistra - L'Arcobaleno (Rainbow Left), a list of the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista, Partito dei Comunisti Italiani, Sinistra democratica and the Greens. For the first time since the existence of the Italian republic, no communist forces were represented in parliament.

The consolidation of the center-right and center-left camps only lasted briefly, however, as centrifugal tendencies quickly regained the upper hand, with the establishment of new parties (such as Futuro e Libertà per l'Italia or Alleanza per l'Italia ).

Since 2013

On the occasion of the parliamentary elections in Italy 2013 there was a reorganization of the political blocs, which was confirmed after the parliamentary elections in 2018 , so that there is already talk of a third Italian republic. The center-right and center-left coalitions that have alternated in government since 1994 have been broken up.

The reasons lie in the economic and financial crisis that has persisted in Italy since 2008, in the unpopularity of the European Union in the context of the euro crisis and the refugee crisis , as well as in the renewed exposure of financial and corruption scandals within the established politics, which has not been done since Mani-Pulite has become noticeably cleaner (leading members of the Italian parliament were or are legally convicted).

Initially, a third political camp was able to assert itself in the 2013 parliamentary elections: the five-star movement ( MoVimento 5 Stelle ) founded by the professional comedian Beppe Grillo , which immediately considered the European Union with young candidates and the topics of direct democracy, anti-corruption and criticism Italy-wide party with the largest number of votes entered the Chamber of Deputies (with the inclusion of the constituencies abroad, however, the Partito Democratico emerged as the party with the largest number of votes).

The center-left coalition was able to gain a majority because of the right to vote, which rewards coalitions. The Partito Democratico, under the leadership of Matteo Renzi, achieved considerable electoral success in the European elections on April 25, 2014 , the party emerged as the strongest party with 40.81% of the vote (with a turnout of 57.22%). For the first time in over 50 years, an Italian party succeeded in gaining over 40% of the votes in national elections. The last time the Democrazia Cristiana succeeded in doing this was in the parliamentary elections in 1958 , albeit with a turnout of 93.83%. However, Renzi's success was short-lived and he had to resign after a lost referendum .

In the run-up to the 2018 parliamentary elections, the Lega Nord transformed into an Italian national party (which has since appeared as a Lega throughout Italy without the addition of Nord) based on the model of the French Front National , the Austrian Freedom Party and the Hungarian Fidesz , and could claim supremacy in the elections within the center-right camp, from which Berlusconi's party (again Forza Italia since 2013 ) was ousted for the first time . Even more clearly than in 2013, the five-star movement became the strongest political force. The center-left coalition was voted out.

The five-star movement has been ruling since June 1, 2018 : it ruled together with the Lega until September 5, 2019, after the Lega left the government there was a coalition with Partito Democratico, Liberi e Uguali , Italia Viva and the Movimento Associativo Italiani all'Estero . A government of national unity ( Draghi Cabinet ) has existed since February 13, 2021 , supported in particular by the major parties Five Star Movement, Partito Democratico, Lega and Forza Italia. The right-wing national party Fratelli d'Italia is not involved in the government.

Regional parties and representation of Italians living abroad

The South Tyrolean People's Party (SVP) is the political representation of the German- and Ladin-speaking South Tyroleans in Rome, the Union Valdôtaine is a minority party from the Aosta Valley.

The Movimento Associativo Italiani all'Estero is the united movement of Italians abroad, represented in the South American constituency.

Political structure

Self-governing bodies

The Italian Republic consists of the following local authorities (the number in brackets)

Decentralized state administration

The national government has numerous branch offices in its decentralized administrative areas. These are usually congruent with the provinces or metropolitan cities .

In each province there is a Prefettura - ufficio territoriale del governo (Prefecture - District Office of the Government). The prefects who head this office oversee the work of the decentralized national authorities. You have the ultimate responsibility for public safety and order in the provinces.

The quaesture ( police headquarters ) set up at the provincial level forms the most important operational unit of the Polizia di Stato , the police force that reports to the Ministry of the Interior. The Carabinieri , who are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense, maintain a comando provinciale in each province . Nucleo Provinciale di Polizia Tributaria is the name of the provincial command of the Guardia di Finanza . There are also regional and interregional commands.

Some of the municipalities also take on functions on behalf of the state: electoral, registration and registry offices as well as statistical offices. In addition, they were responsible for the administrative execution of military service until it was repealed.

The Agenzia delle Entrate , the Italian tax authority subordinate to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance in Rome, maintains regional and local tax offices throughout Italy, which are gradually being grouped into provincial directorates.

Centralism versus federalism

At the seat of the Regional Council of the Autonomous Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trieste

From 1861 to 1948 Italy was a very centralized unitary state , i. H. Provinces and municipalities were just administrative districts of the central government in Rome . The partial self-government rights of the municipalities were completely abolished during fascism , the mayors (podestà) were appointed from Rome.

Italy has been a decentralized unitary state since the 1948 constitution . The so-called “ federalism debate”, which was initially launched by separatist parties such as the Lega Nord in the 1980s and 1990s, led to an important constitutional reform in 2001, which was confirmed in a referendum and which expanded decentralization considerably (Constitutional Amendment Act 3/2001). With another constitutional reform passed in 2005, Italy was supposed to be converted - at least formally - into a federal state . However, this constitutional reform failed in 2006 due to a referendum. After that, calls for recentralization became louder: The corresponding constitutional amendment was, however, also rejected by the electorate (2016) , so that the regionalist emphasis on the distribution of competencies between the state and regions that was carried out in 2001 continues.

Since the constitutional amendment law 3/2001, all regional authorities, from the municipalities to the state, are de jure on one level. Article 114 of the Constitution states in this sense: The republic consists of the municipalities, the provinces, the metropolitan cities, the regions and the state. Since then, it has also been the case that legislative power generally belongs to the regions and administration in general to the municipalities. Article 117 of the Constitution provides with regard to legislative power: The regions have the right to legislate in relation to all areas that are not expressly reserved for state law. Civil and criminal law, however, remain the responsibility of the state and the Constitutional Court tends to interpret regional powers in a very restrictive manner.

In the area of ​​public administration, Article 118 emphasizes the central role of the Italian municipalities : the administrative functions are assigned to the municipalities, unless they are assigned to the provinces, metropolitan cities, regions and the state to ensure uniform implementation, on the basis of the subsidiarity , Differentiation and appropriation principles are granted.

The so-called Federalismo fiscale (fiscal federalism) is supposed to describe the Italian financial constitution. Article 119 of the reformed constitution provides for a strong independence of the regional authorities vis-à-vis the state: the municipalities, the provinces, the metropolitan cities and the regions are independent in their budgetary management in terms of income and expenditure. The municipalities, the provinces, the metropolitan cities and the regions have their own resources. They determine and collect their own taxes and duties in accordance with the constitution and according to the principles of the coordination of public finance and the tax system. They have a share in the income from the taxes and duties attributable to their territory. In April 2009 a law enabling the implementation of fiscal federalism was passed. The gradual implementation through government decrees should take place by 2016. In fact, fiscal federalism was not implemented, but public finances were increasingly centralized again as part of the sovereign debt crisis .

The five autonomous regions with special statutes , Aosta Valley, Trentino-South Tyrol, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sicily and Sardinia, as well as the likewise autonomous provinces of Trentino and South Tyrol, have a special position with regard to public finances . They have in-depth legal and administrative competencies and are in some cases equipped with very generous financial resources (up to 100% of the tax revenue), which, however, have also been cut due to the national budget situation.

See also


  • Lutz Bergner: Italian regionalism. A legal comparison with decentralized and federal systems, especially with the German federal system. Publishing house Dr. Kovac, Hamburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-8300-3997-6 .
  • Anna Capretti: Opening of the power structures through referenda in Italy. A pluralism-theoretical analysis. P. Lang, Frankfurt / Berlin / Bern / New York 2001, ISBN 3-631-37852-1 .
  • Damian Grasmück: The "Forza Italia" Silvio Berlusconi. Birth, development, government activity and structures of a charismatic party. Peter Lang Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-631-53839-1 .
  • Ernst-Ulrich Große, Günther Trautmann: The political system of Italy. In: dies .: Understanding Italy. Primus-Verlag, Darmstadt 1997, ISBN 3-89678-052-2 , pp. 1-59.
  • Friederike Hausmann: A Brief History of Italy from 1943 to Today. Wagenbach, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-8031-2288-0 .
  • Stefan Köppl: The political system of Italy. An introduction. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-531-14068-1 .
  • Livio Paladin: Diritto Costituzionale. CEDAM, Padua 1998, ISBN 88-13-21200-3 .
  • Dirk Schönrock: Forming a coalition based on the majority principle? The application of game-theoretical coalition models to the formation of a government in the Italian Republic (= Nomos-Universitätsschriften, Politik . Vol. 74). Nomos, Baden-Baden 1997, ISBN 3-7890-5037-7 .
  • Günther Trautmann: The political system of Italy. In: Wolfgang Ismayr (Ed.): The political systems of Western Europe. 2nd Edition. Leske and Budrich, Opladen 1999, ISBN 3-8100-2340-X , pp. 519-559.
  • Peter Weber: Italy's democratic renewal. Adjustment problems of a "difficult" democracy. In: Winfried Steffani, Uwe Thaysen (ed.): Democracy in Europe: To the role of parliaments. West German Verlag, Opladen 1995, ISBN 3-531-12689-X , pp. 178–203 (special volume for the 25th anniversary of the magazine for parliamentary questions ).
  • Peter Weber: Coalitions in Italy: Frenetic fighting in the network of party interests. In: Sabine Kropp , Suzanne S. Schüttemeyer , Roland Sturm (eds.): Coalitions in Western and Eastern Europe. Leske and Budrich, Opladen 2002, ISBN 3-8100-3176-3 , pp. 167-196.
  • Peter Weber: Legislation in the Italian political system. In: Wolfgang Ismayr (Ed.): Legislation in Western Europe. EU countries and the European Union. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2008, ISBN 978-3-8100-3466-3 , pp. 463-511.

On the effects of the abrogative referendum in Italy:

  • Anna Capretti: Direct Democracy in Italy. In: H. Heussner, O. Jung (Ed.): Dare to dare more direct democracy. Olzog, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-7892-8017-8 , pp. 123-141.
  • Anna Chimenti: Storia dei Referendum. Dal divorzio alla riforma elletorale. Latterza, Rome 1993, ISBN 88-420-4136-X .
  • Piergiorgio Corbetta, Arturo Parisi: The referendum on the Electoral Law fort he Senate: Another Momentous April. Translated by Claire Homan and Carol Mershon. In: Carol Mershon, Gianfranco Pasquino: Italian politics: ending the First Republic. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado et al. 1995, ISBN 0-8133-8893-7 , pp. 75-92.
  • Anna Capretti: Opening of the power structures through referenda in Italy - a pluralism- theoretical analysis. Lang, Frankfurt a. M. et al. 2001, ISBN 3-631-37852-1 .
  • Ludger Helms: Structural Change in the Italian Party System. In: From Politics and Contemporary History . B35-36. Bonn 1994, pp. 28-37.
  • Eike-Christian Hornig: Again the Italian referendum fails because the parties are blocked. In: KAS-Auslandsinformationen (Berlin). 21 (2005) 10, pp. 22-29.
  • Adolf Kimmel (ed.): The constitutions of the EC member states. Dt. Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-423-05554-5 , pp. 243-268, here: p. 254.
  • Wolfgang Luthardt: Direct Democracy. A comparison in Western Europe. Nomos, Baden-Baden 1994, ISBN 3-7890-3540-8 , pp. 66-76.
  • Jörg Luther: The Italian constitutional jurisdiction. History, procedural law, jurisprudence. Nomos, Baden-Baden 1990, ISBN 3-7890-1929-1 .
  • Silvano Moeckli : Direct Democracy. Haupt, Bern 1994, ISBN 3-258-04937-8 , pp. 47-52, 127-130.
  • Markus Schäfer: Referendums, electoral law reforms and political actors in the structural change of the Italian party system. In: Political Parties in Europe. Lit-Verlag, Münster 1998, ISBN 3-8258-3822-6 .
  • Peter Weber: The long road to constitutional reform in Italy. In: Journal for Parliamentary Issues. 24, 1993, pp. 474-495.
  • Peter Weber: The ghosts of the past. In: The Parliament (Bonn). 47 (June 27, 1994) 27, p. 12.
  • Peter Weber: Ways out of the crisis. Electoral reform and referendums in Italy. In: From Politics and Contemporary History. B 34/94, Bonn, August 28, 1994, pp. 20-27.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Bundestag: Implementation dates for women's suffrage in 20 European countries  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , accessed on August 9, 2018@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / www.bundestag.de  
  2. a b REFERENDUM SULLA FORMA ISTITUZIONALE DELLO STATO. Ministerio dell'Interno, accessed June 2, 2016 (Italian).
  3. RISULTATI PER REGIONI. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on March 3, 2016 ; Retrieved on May 2, 2016 (Italian, published in: Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri. Comitato per le celebrazioni del 40 ° anniversario della Repubblica: La nascita della Repubblica. Atti del Convegno di studi storici, Archivio centrale dello Stato, Rome, 4- 5-6 June 1987, "Quaderni di vita italiana", n.3, 1987.). Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / ospitiweb.indire.it
  4. http://elezionistorico.interno.it/index.php
  5. tedesco.pdf Constitution of the Italian Republic (pdf on www.quirinale.it, the homepage of the Italian President; 128 kB)
  6. http://www.cortecostituzionale.it/actionPresidente.do
  7. ^ DPA: Napolitano re-elected as head of state of Italy. In: FAZ.net . April 20, 2013, accessed October 13, 2018 .
  8. see Cristina Giorgiantonio, Principio di sussidiarietà e istanze centripete: 14 anni di applicazione del nuovo Titolo V, in: Banca d'Italia , Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional papers) , number 376 - March 2017, plate 3 https: / /www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/qef/2017-0376/QEF_376_17.pdf
  9. see Cristina Giorgiantonio, Principio di sussidiarietà e istanze centripete: 14 anni di applicazione del nuovo Titolo V, in: Banca d'Italia , Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional papers) , number 376 - March 2017, page 13 ff. Https : //www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/qef/2017-0376/QEF_376_17.pdf
  10. Supreme Judicial Council: Ordinary judicial posts in Italy, as of February 2021
  11. World Bank : Doing Business, Enforcing Contracts Index May 2019
  12. ag / ag2008 / ag2008ministro capp.htm Inauguration of the court year 2008
  13. http://www.giurcost.org/fonti/lcost1-53.htm
  14. see Perry Anderson , L'Italia dopo l'Italia. Verso la Terza Repubblica, Castelvecchi, 2014 (translation from English by A. Varvelli and N. Zippel)
  15. Possible division of the political phases of the so-called First Italian Republic based on slide sets from the University of Bergamo as part of the Corso di Laurea in lettere (Bachelor's degree in literature), 2012/2013, course Storia contemporanea (contemporary history):
    1. Centrist Alliance: http://www00.unibg.it/dati/corsi/67053/58977-StoCont1213%20Lezione3%20A%20Centrismo.pdf
    2. Center-left phase: http://www00.unibg.it/dati/corsi/67053/59172-StoCont1213%20Lezione4%20B%20Centrosinistra.pdf
    3. Historical compromise and Pentapartito: http://www00.unibg.it/dati/corsi/67053/59173-StoCont1213%20Lezione5%20C%20Pentapartito.pdf
  16. Heiliger Beppe p. 2 , Die Zeit, January 19, 2006
  17. Italian Ministry of the Interior: http://elezioni.interno.it/europee/votanti/20140525/EXvotanti.htm
  18. maggio 26 / pd-mai-nessun-partito-cosi-alto-1958-1a88116a-e4e0-11e3-8e3e-8f5de4ddd12f.shtml PD: no party has achieved such a good result since 1958  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Corriere della Sera , online edition, May 26, 2014@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.corriere.it  
  19. ISTAT : http://www.istat.it/it/archivio/6789 ; As of July 1, 2020
  20. [1]  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. CS DP bologna 21 01 09.pdf? MOD = AJPERES & CACHEID = 63e0e380426da074a29abbc065cef0e8@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.agenziaentrate.gov.it  
  21. and Departments / Press / it presse / 2009/04 / it 30 04 09 pdf, property = Daten.pdf Press review of the embassy in Rome of April 30, 2009, PDF