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The Second Republic - 1993-2011

There were frequent government turnovers since 1945. The dominance of the Christian Democratic (DC) party during much of the postwar period lent continuity and comparative stability to Italy's political situation. From 1992, Italy faced significant challenges as voters -- disenchanted with past political paralysis, massive government debt, extensive corruption, and organized crime's considerable influence--demanded political, economic, and ethical reforms. In 1993 referendums, voters approved substantial changes, including moving from a proportional to a largely majoritarian electoral system and the abolishment of some ministries.

Italy's dramatic self-renewal transformed the political landscape between 1992 and 1997. Scandal investigations touched thousands of politicians, administrators, and businessmen; the shift from a proportional to majoritarian voting system--with the requirement to obtain a minimum of 4% of the national vote to obtain representation--also altered the political landscape.

Party changes were sweeping. The Christian Democratic party dissolved; the Italian People's Party and the Christian Democratic Center emerged. Other major parties, such as the Socialists, saw support plummet. A new liberal movement, Forza Italia gained wide support among moderate voters. The National Alliance broke from the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement. A trend toward two large coalitions -- one on the center-left and the other on the center-right -- emerged from the April 1995 regional elections.

Major political parties, beset by scandal and loss of voter confidence, underwent far-reaching changes. New political forces and new alignments of power emerged in March 1994 national elections. The election saw a major turnover in the new parliament, with 452 out of 630 deputies and 213 out of 315 senators elected for the first time. The 1994 elections also swept media magnate Silvio Berlusconi--and his "Freedom Pole" coalition--into office as Prime Minister. Berlusconi, however, was forced to step down in January 1995 when one member of his coalition withdrew support. The Berlusconi government was succeeded by a technical government headed by Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, which fell in early 1996.

A series of center-left coalitions dominated Italy's political landscape between 1996 and 2001. For the 1996 national elections, the center-left parties created the Olive Tree coalition while the center-right united again under the Freedom Pole. In April 1996, national elections led to the victory of a center-left coalition (the Olive Tree) under the leadership of Romano Prodi. Prodi's government became the third-longest to stay in power before he narrowly lost a vote of confidence (by three votes) in October 1998. A new government was formed by Democratic Party of the Left leader and former-communist Massimo D'Alema. In April 2000, following a poor showing by his coalition in regional elections, D'Alema resigned. The succeeding center-left government, including most of the same parties, was headed by Giuliano Amato, who previously served as Prime Minister in 1992-93.

In May 1999, the Parliament selected Carlo Azeglio Ciampi as the Republic's President. Ciampi, a former Prime Minister and Minister of the Treasury, was elected on the first ballot with an easy margin over the required two-thirds votes.

National elections held on May 13, 2001 returned Berlusconi to power at the head of the five-party center-right "Freedom House" coalition, comprising the prime minister's own party, Forza Italia, the National Alliance, the Northern League, the Christian Democratic Center, and the United Christian Democrats.

The May 2001 elections ushered into power a refashioned center-right coalition dominated by Berlusconi's party, Forza Italia. The Olive Tree coalition sat in the opposition. This emerging bipolarity represented a major break from the fragmented, multi-party political landscape of the postwar era, although it appears to have reached a plateau, since efforts via referendums to further curtail the influence of small parties were defeated in 1999 and 2000. The largest parties in the Chamber were Forza Italia (28.8%); Democrats of the Left (22.1%); the National Alliance (16%); the Daisy center-left coalition, which included elements from Italian Renewal; Democrats and Union of Democrats for Europe (13%); and the Whiteflower coalition of two centrist parties (6.4%). Similar rankings generally applied in the Senate, in which Forza Italia and the Democrats of the Left remained the dominant parties. This Berlusconi government served its entire term.

In national elections held April 9-10, 2006, Romano Prodi's center-left Union coalition won a narrow victory over Berlusconi's Freedom House coalition. The Union coalition included the Democratic Party (born of the November 2007 fusion of the Democrats of the Left and the Daisy Party), UDEUR (Union of Democrats for Europe), Rose in the Fist (made up by Italian Social Democrats and Italian Radical Party), Communist Renewal, the Italian Communist Party, Italy of Values, and the Greens.

In May 2006, the parliament elected Giorgio Napolitano as the Republic's President. President Napolitano formerly served as a lifetime senator, Minister of the Interior, and a Member of the European Parliament as a member of center-left parties. President Napolitano's term was to end in May 2013. The Senate, lower house, and regional representatives vote to elect his successor.

In January 2008, the Prodi government fell when small coalition partner UDEUR withdrew support. In February, the President dissolved parliament and Silvio Berlusconi returned to power after defeating former Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni by a comfortable margin in elections on April 13-14, 2008. Berlusconi's winning coalition was composed of the People of Liberty (a union of Forza Italia and National Alliance), the Northern League, and the Movement for Autonomy. Berlusconi was sworn in as Prime Minister on May 8. Veltroni resigned as leader of the opposition in February 2009, and his deputy, Dario Franceschini, was elected new Democratic Party leader.

In May 2009, Berlusconi's second wife announced she was getting a divorce after he had been photographed at a birthday party for Noemi Letizia, an 18-year-old aspiring model. Berlusconi denied any charges of wrongdoing. In July, some Italian news organizations said they had audio recordings of Berlusconi talking to an escort, Patrizia D'Addario, who said she was one of several women paid to attend parties at Berlusconi's residence in Rome. The self-made media mogul had been elected prime minister three times, recently telling political supporters Italy had "no alternative" to his leadership, though he also said being prime minister was a "burden that I personally would be glad to be rid of." Through it all, the 75-year-old Berlusconi had constantly stayed in the headlines both for his triumphs and his gaffes, holding onto power despite ongoing sex scandals, accusations of fraud and tax evasion and declining popularity. Berlusconi became the latest victim of the euro debt crisis. He was forced to resign November 11, 2011 after a week that saw him lose his majority in parliament.




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