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The Italian Political System - Overview. Socioeconomic Forces Late Statehood, The Constitution Fragmented Political Culture and Shifting Regimes Political Institutions A) Executive President Prime Minister Cabinet Civil Service

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the italian political system overview

The Italian Political System - Overview

Socioeconomic Forces

Late Statehood, The Constitution

Fragmented Political Culture and Shifting Regimes

Political Institutions

A) Executive

President

Prime Minister

Cabinet

Civil Service

B) Legislature — Chamber of Deputies and Senate

C) Judiciary —Constitutional Courts and Magistrates

D) Regional Governments

V) Political Processes

Electoral Systems and Elections

Parties and Party Systems

Interest Groups

Policy Processes

italy themes of continuity

Italy – Themes of Continuity

Historic and contemporary cleavage between the wealth North and a poorer South.

Distinct regional and provincial differences

Late industrialization at the end of the nineteen century in a rural country

Problem of “making the Italians”

In the South, rise of the state hindered by rise of mafia, replacing the role of the state.

Clientelism and nepotism, “knowing the right person”

italy late statehood

Italy - Late Statehood

Foreign invasions in the peninsula from North (Goths, Lombards, Franks) and South (Muslims).

Middle Age: the Italian city-states (one reason of regional and provincial differences).

Rule of France, Spain and Austria in the north

Invasion of Napoleon elicited first Italian patriotism

italy late statehood4

Italy - Late Statehood

In nineteen century, authority of the Vatican against the unification (today is still influent).

Risorgimento: the Italian state toke shape between 1859 and 1870 driven by the Piedmont’s industrial elites and southern landowners.

“Independence Revolution” from a medieval to a liberal state

“Kingdom of Italy”, constitutional monarchy (Republicans alienated).

Early 1900s: “Romantic nationalism” and liberal economy.

italy fascism

Italy - Fascism

Victory in WWI but little benefits

Democratization interrupted after WWI with the rise of the Fascist regime lead by Mussolini (1923 – 1943), albeit the king is still there.

1920’s: rise of Mussolini and “scientific nationalism”, economic autarchy, corporatist interest system, totalitarian regime

Elected, consolidated power, established authoritarian rule, abolished non-Fascist parties, freedom of expression banned, alliance with Nazis, racial laws, disastrous imperial enterprise

italy fascism6

Italy - Fascism

1929: Mussolini recognized the Vatican as an independent state and as the official Italian church (until 1982).

Institutions merged with the Fascist party.

Collapse of fascist regime and defeat in WWII.

Role of the Resistance by Communists, Socialists and anti-fascist Christian Democrats.

italy the constitution

Italy - The Constitution

After WWII Italy become a Constitutional Republic with the abolition of monarchy after a close referendum:

Northern Republicans 51%

Southern Monarchists 49%

Regional and provincial differences perpetuated

Christian Democrats, Communists, Socialists and Liberals worked together to write the Constitution.

Banned the Fascist party.

The first part of the Constitution is unchangeable (“the principles”).

italy the constitution8

Italy - The Constitution

Rigid Constitution: processes of amendment is difficult and rare.

Historical unitary state with weak regional power, but recent reforms toward devolution.

Strong parliamentary system, weak executive, mandatory voting participation for citizens (high rate).

Necessity to split the power as much as possible among many actors after a dictatorship.

The first republican government (of a long series) is Christian Democrat.

Stable polity but unstable politics.

the first republic fragmented political culture

The First Republic:Fragmented Political Culture

Broad political spectrum after WWII: Communists, Socialists, Social-Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Populists, Christian democrats, Neo-Fascists.

Historic conflict between Communists (perpetually in the opposition, “shadow government”) and Christian Democrats (perpetually governing) since post-WWII to the end of 1980s

Growth of powerful Communist, Socialist and Liberal-Christian oriented unions.

the second republic fragmented political culture

The second Republic:Fragmented Political Culture

After the early 1990s: Communists, Post-Communists, Greens, Socialists, Radicals, Leftist Liberals, Leftist Christian Democrats, Conservative Christian Democrats, Conservative Liberals, Northern League (Independentists for Northern Italy), Post-Fascists, Neo-Fascists.

italy shifting regimes from the first to the second republic

Italy - Shifting Regimes From the First to the Second Republic

“The First Republic”: after WWII to early 1990s.

“The Second Republic”: in the early 1990s, massive set of indictments and convictions to top leaders culminating to a series of scandals, resignations and generational change. One-third of Parliaments’ members under investigation.

“The Second Republic”: end of the Cold War and fall of Communism redesigned ideological spectrum.

Fall of the powerful Christian Democrats, Socialist parties and Communist parties.

Fall of prominent Italian politicians.

Only 11% of the 1994 – 1996 representatives were previously members of the Parliament.

italy shifting regimes from the first to the second republic12

Italy - Shifting Regimes From the First to the Second Republic

Rise of Silvio Berlusconi (center-right) a media tycoon with populist and demagogic tendencies. In 1994 he governed for 7 months while he was able to complete the legislature from 2001 to 2006. He won again elections held in 2008.

1996: the first leftist government in Republican Italy. Historical attitude to play as a opposition force provided fragmentation in front of government responsibilities, incapable to govern.

Rise of Romano Prodi (center-left) a former university professor and a public manager. He had to resign twice after two years in office (1996 – 1998 and 2006 – 2008). He served as President of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004.

italy political institution executive

Italy - Political Institution - Executive

President of the Republic has a ceremonial and monitoring power. He can veto laws approved by the Parliament refusing to sign it (ex: media law during Berlusconi government). He can dissolve the parliament after consultations and calls for new elections. Elected by the Parliament. He is the head of army.

Prime minister leads government.

Inhibited by the necessity to maintain the confidence of a majority in both parliamentary chambers.

Inhibited by numerous check and balances coming from the institutional architecture more favorable to the Parliament.

Inhibited because it is not directly elected by the citizens but appointed by the parliament. In the Italian context, it becomes a sort of cynical blackmail.

italy political institution executive14

Italy - Political Institution - Executive

Reform paralyzed by party, even problems with management of current affairs.

Since the 1990s, early attempts to give the executive more power failed because

of the reminiscence of Mussolini.

the parties responsible for reformation might have to counterproductively reduce their own powers.

As a result, sometimes economic or political crises were developed by technocrats-dominated cabinets, with cabinet ministers co-opted from outside parliament and political arena.

italy political institution legislature

Italy - Political Institution - Legislature

Is the core power.

Bicameral: the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate have equal powers, unique case among Western countries.

It appoints the Prime Minister and either house may remove a government by a majority no-confidence vote. Schizophrenic governments’ turnover

Great power to shaping legislative outcomes and making and unmaking governments.

Great use of secret ballots increased uncertainly and disloyal votes.

Reliance on a strong system of specialized committees that enact much legislation.

Reform toward a unicameral congress failed essentially because parties did not want to lose filibuster and bargain power.

overview the 1958 and 1963 elections
Overview: The 1958 and 1963 Elections

Source: Spotts, Wieser (1986). “Italy, A Difficult Democracy”, Cambridge University Press.

italy political institution judiciary

Italy - Political Institution - Judiciary

Legal system based on Roman law.

Constitutional Court which possesses judicial review powers concerning matters of constitutionality.

On one hand, local judges (magistrates) played a leading role in unveiling the enormous scandal at the beginning of the 1990s, discovering extensive illegal financing of political parties, corruption, fiscal evasion, parties’ links with mafia.

Magistrates are relatively insulated by the parties.

However, Berlusconi says that judiciary is under political control and against him so he felt legitimated to pass a law granting him immunity.

The law was firstly considered unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court but some weeks ago passed.

Escalation of judicial activism or preservation of legality?

Is too much control of politics over the judiciary beneficial?

italy political institution regional government

Italy - Political Institution - Regional Government

Historical unitary state with weak regional power.

Constitutions made provisions for regional governments but regions were created only in the 1970.

Differences in performance

The “Red Belt” regions in Northern Italy (Emilia, Tuscany)

Recent reforms in the 1990s toward a “quasi-federal” system especially to grant regions the power to talk with the EU to obtain funds, even bypassing Rome.

Architecture in line with the EU structure.

Northern League is pushing for devolution (and eventually secession) between Northern and Southern Italy.

italy political processes electoral systems and elections

Italy - Political Processes- Electoral Systems and Elections

High turnout around 90% (vote was mandatory)

From 1946 to 1993 proportional representation in both chambers with multimember districts

Encouragement of small party and factionalism in big parties

1991 - referendum to reduce preference voting and reform in 1993.

Compromise among parties: each Italian voter has two preferences, one for the party, one for the candidate.

Three-fourth of the representatives was elected in single-member constituencies using a first-past-the-post system

The rest was proportional, with threshold of 4% for parties.

However, the party system remained fragmented.

In 2005, three months before the end of the legislature, Berlusconi’s center-right coalition passed a new flawed electoral law with the purpose to make difficult governing for new executive (…Prodi resigned after two years).

That law worked also for the last elections

italy political processes parties and party systems

Italy - Political Processes- Parties and Party Systems

Multiparty System (dozens of parties) with quarreling intra and inter-factions dissolving any possible coalition.

From 1947 to 1992, the Christian Democratic party dominated every Italian government. Big party factionalized.

The Communists formed the major opposition, never governing but “shadow government”.

No alternation in power despite the “historic compromise” from 1976 to 1979, when Christian Democratic Party and Communists were close.

The most powerful actors (Italian “partitocrazia” means power to the parties”)

No respect for the electoral programs, low accountability, public opinion and electorate frustrated.

italy political processes parties and party systems22

Italy - Political Processes- Parties and Party Systems

Able to control the state administration toward servicing their own clienteles and demanding payoffs from prospective clients. Material favors supplied in exchange of political support.

Absence of meritocratic selection, closeness to mafia and corruption

Diffuse incompetence and inability in the public sector

Systematic division of seats among all parties

High expectations toward a change of political culture in order to hire bureaucrats with specialized studies (Anglo-Saxon model)?

Shift to a two-coalition politics or two-party system?

italy political processes parties and party systems23

Republicans

Neo-fascists

Liberals

Christian

Italy - Political Processes- Parties and Party Systems

Socialists

Communists

In the 1990s

Until the 1980s

Conservative Christians

Leftist

Christians

Social-democrats

Northern League

Post-fascists

Neo-fascists

Greens

Communists

Berlusconi

italy political processes parties and party systems24

Elections of April 2008 (Senate data, similar to the Chamber)

Christians Democrats

Democratic Party

Northern League

Italy - Political Processes- Parties and Party Systems

Berlusconi

Socialists, etc…

Radical Left

Small parties

Far Right

2%

3%

38%

5,5%

39%

8%

2,5%

2%

Opposition (43,5%)

Majority (47% enough on 90.5%)

No seats

No seats

New Parliament (total 90.5%)

italy political processes interest groups

Italy - Political Processes– Interest Groups

From Fascist corporatism to consociational system, limited pluralism.

Traditional interests linked with Catholic action have lost influence due to secularization of Italian society.

Network of small, family-run business

Neo-corporatist representation between Confindustria (industry confederation) and unions divided ideologically,

After WWII public business: Institute for Italian reconstruction (IRI) and National Hydrocarbons Agency (ENI) but recent privatization.

italy policy processes

Italy - Policy Processes

Predominantly legislative (shifting coalitions, filibusters)

Chronic weak executive (60 govts in 60 years)

The President of the Republic checks the political process

italy and the eu history

After WWII Communists opposed the European integration, however it was a way to reconnect Italy in the IR after the nationalistic and autarchic politics of Mussolini.

  • Socialists initially opposed too but then they accepted the idea of Italy joining the EC.
  • Christian Democratic party, in agreement with the US, decided to join the EC and reinforce Trans-Atlantic relations.
  • As the poorest member of the ECC, Italy sought economic benefits from its membership.
  • Two presidents of the Commission: Malfatti (in the 1970s) and Romano Prodi (1999 – 2004).
  • Italy pushed for the increase of structural funds especially for its own South.
  • Pushed for EMU due to weak domestic currency, hyper inflated and under control of German Bundesbank.

Italy and the EU - History

italian elusiveness on the eu

Abstract commitment to European Integration of Italian politicians.

  • Founding member of the European Community but minor contributions to the EC/EU evolution
  • Public opinion’s superficial enthusiasm to the EU project and low awareness on how it works.
  • Record of a persistent laggard in the implementation of EC/EU directives.
  • Infringements proceedings by the European Court of Justice (ECJ)
  • Failure to execute ECJ judgments and non-compliance with EC/EU laws.

Italian Elusiveness on the EU

italian elusiveness on the eu29

Inefficient and corrupted bureaucracy

  • Lack of political willing due to party fragmentation, more concerned with the management of internal fight than European affairs.
  • Italy failed to use EU as an external vinculum to promote domestic reform.
  • The constraints imposed by the EU were particularly impervious for Italy because its institutional “lack of fit” (Featherstone 2002).
  • On the Euro, Italy maintained a skeptical position essentially due to internal political institutions’ resistance to any reform.
  • As a result, Italy’s path to EU has been characterized by adjustment processes associated with the lack of fundamental institutional reforms and adoption of “copying mechanism”.

Italian Elusiveness on the EU

italian elusiveness on the eu30

Sub-national reform from regional to quasi-federal instilled by the possibility to easily achieve EU structural funds and activity of Northern League Party.

  • Reason of party partial evolution is essentially domestic.
  • Campaign for European elections is based on domestic issues.
  • Oscillation between intergovernmentalism and supranationalism.
  • Limited Europeanization despite Parliamentary systematic transportation of European directives into domestic laws.

Italian Elusiveness on the EU

italian elusiveness on the eu31

Lack of political willing due to party fragmentation, more concerned with the management of internal fight than European affairs.

  • Italy failed to use EU as an external vinculum to promote domestic reform.
  • The constraints imposed by the EU were particularly impervious for Italy because its institutional “lack of fit” (Featherstone 2002).
  • On the Euro, Italy maintained a skeptical position essentially due to internal political institutions’ resistance to any reform.
  • As a result, Italy’s path to EU has been characterized by adjustment processes associated with the lack of fundamental institutional reforms and adoption of “copying mechanism”.

Italian Elusiveness on the EU

current positions on the eu

Berlusconi, ambivalent attitude. On one side, politics of “shaking hands to anybody” and enrollment in European People’s Party. On the other side, calls for Europe of the Nations, Euroskepticism, Trans-Atlantic orientation, sometimes offensive and bizarre.

  • Communists, Northern League and Nationalists hostile against the EU
  • Leftists are pro-European (Prodi).

Current Positions on the EU

is italy declining

Is Italy Declining ?

Technically, it is the sixth industrialized country and a founder of the European Community, however:

Lost the grip on the EU

It is not able to play as a major power because its lack of a large empire, late and uneven industrialization, political chaos.

Zero economic growth, possible recession. Spain equaled Italian GDP, Greece expected too. Role of regional power in the Mediterranean is challenged.

Women lagged behind, “machist” political culture.

Demographic ratio saved by immigration (otherwise negative).

Close to last country in terms of public debt.

Mafia still too powerful in Southern Italy, with political ramifications in Rome (and Brussels) and economic connections with Northern Italy.

Example: garbage in Naples, political chaos and mafia power.