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Italy - Politics

Prime Minister*startendParty
50 Giulio AndreottiX 22 Jul 1989 24 Apr 1992 Democrazia Cristiana
51 Giuliano AmatoXI 28 Jun 1992 28 Apr 1993 Partito Socialista Italiano
52 Carlo Azeglio CiampiXI 28 Apr1993 10 May 1994 Independent
53 Silvio Berlusconi XII 10 May 1994 17 Jan 1995 Forza Italia
54 Lamberto DiniXII 17 Jan 1995 17 May 1996 Independent
55 Romano Prodi XIII 17 May 1996 21 Oct 1998 L'Ulivo
56 Massimo D'AlemaXIII 21 Oct 1998 25 Apr 2000Democratici di Sinistrac
57 Giuliano Amato XIII 25 Apr 2000 11 Jun 2001 L'Ulivo
58 Silvio BerlusconiXIV 11 Jun 2001 17 May 2006Forza Italia
59 Romano ProdiXV 17 May 200625 Jan 2008L'Unione
60 Silvio BerlusconiXV 14 Apr 200812 Nov 2011Forza Italia
61 Mario MontiXVI 12 Nov 2011 25 Apr 2013none
62 Enrico Letta XVI 25 Apr 201313 Feb 2014Democratic
63 Matteo RenziXVI 17 Feb 201411 Dec 2016Democratic
64 Paolo GentiloniXVI 11 Dec 201604 Mar 2018Democratic
65 Giuseppe ConteXVII 31 May 2018xx xxx 20xxLega + M5S
* Legislature

A standard interpretation of political development in Italy since the early 1990s crisis saw the First Republic as built upon a tripolar party system while the "Second Republic" saw a shift towards a Republic built on a bipolar party system. By 2001, there was fairly wide agreement that the party system was fundamentally bipolar. Fragmentation remained the second defining feature of the party system and subsequent developments led to the 2008 election being fought on a multipolar basis.

Major political parties, beset by scandal and loss of voter confidence, underwent far-reaching changes in the 1990s. 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. New elections in 1996 brought a center-left coalition to government for the first time after World War II.

Berlusconi was often criticised for exercising indirect control of state television while also being the owner of a vast private media empire. However, argued Veltri, in Italy there have never been editori puri (pure proprietors), entrepreneurs whose exclusive business is that of publishing and who have no interests elsewhere. Media proprietors have always used their publishing activities as a means of exercising the political leverage required to enable them to advance other business interests. A more important issue concerns the way the media inform the Italian public: broadcasters in particular have always been subject to considerable political interference. RAI, the publicly-owned television network, has always been subject to lottizzazione (sharing out), each channel operating under the influence of one of the main parties. Guaranteeing plurality led to the abandonment of objective, balanced reporting.

The situation as of 2011 seemed to be one of multipolarity, perhaps even of a predominant party system, in which one relatively unified block of parties faced "the rest." The novelty in Italian politics is that the landscape is more fragmented, but for the most part, it's the same old faces. Although the faces are the same, the names used to describe their groupings are new, and almost all point to a common idea: Italy is in trouble and must somehow return to the essence of Italian-ness to save herself. Italy is a populist and 'leader-led' population. Italian politics has lost the capacity to produce ideas and produce visions. It has become a laboratory, perhaps unique in the world, of political communication, a laboratory of leadership, but it doesn't really produce political thoughts. Until recently, there had been frequent government turnovers (more than 60 and counting) 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.

Italian Prime Minister-designate Mario Monti, a former top EU commissioner, was asked 12 November 2011 by the country's president to form a new government. The move came a day after Berlusconi's resignation. Monti performed really badly. The center-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani took the most votes in the lower house in the elections of 24 February 2013 - about 125,000, or 29.55 percent - but that was just barely more than the 29.18 percent won by the party led by right-leaning Silvio Berlusconi. The movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo known as the Five-Star Movement took the third-largest share of votes in the lower house.

Voting in the election showed no clear winner, creating a hung parliament and diminishing prospects for a reform-minded government coalition. The vote was the latest example of populations in the eurozone lashing out at budget-balancing measures within their governments. On 25 April 2013 former Christian Democrats (i Popolari) Enrico Letta was designated as the new Prime Minister. He announced his decision 13 February 2014 after his center-left Democratic Party overwhelmingly backed a proposal by leader Matteo Renzi to withdraw support from Letta and form a new government.

After receiving the mandate from President Giorgio Napolitano on 17 February 2014, the 39-year-old Matteo Renzi moved to form a new government, to deliver on his promise to lead Italy "out of the quagmire."

Paddy Agnew writing for the Irish Times observed in February 2016 that "The Renzi style of government, at times, seems based more on the photo-op, the clever soundbite, the apt tweet and the monologue news conference rather than a substantial analysis of complex government issues.... senior figures in Brussels as well as elsewhere have concluded that, whatever the shortcomings of Renzi, the alternative would be much more worrying."

Italy headed for its 64th government since the end of World War II, and soon thereafter the 66th. After a period of stability, Italy had returned to the political fragility that was its defining characteristic during the Cold War. Italy appeared to be trapped in a vicious circle in which people expect to be disappointed by their governments, and watch them play right into these expectations. This prompts one more government to collapse and a new one to be elected, and the cycle begins again.

Renzi became Italian premier in 2014 after he manoeuvered the governing Democratic Party to oust Enrico Letta. Renzi, though, lost a political gamble two years later when he staked his premiership on a constitutional referendum that failed, forcing him to resign. He later broke with his fellow Democrats and formed the Italia Viva party, which, while small, has enough support in the Senate to make his voice count in the government.

Italy's former premier Matteo Renzi said on 13 January 2021 he was pulling his party's ministers from the cabinet, effectively leaving the ruling coalition without a majority in parliament. His decision threw Italy into political chaos even as the country is struggling to contain the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic. Renzi, who heads the tiny Italia Viva party, had long threatened to quit the government, complaining about Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's plans over how to spend billions of euros promised by the European Union to relaunch the economy. After conferring with Italy's head of state, President Sergio Mattarella, Conte had expressed hope that Renzis support would remain.

Otherwise, a [government] crisis wouldn't be understood by the country, Conte told reporters. Mattarella has said that if the current government collapses, he may pull the plug on the legislature and trigger early elections rather than risk an alternative coalition with fragile support in parliament.

Opinion polls have consistently shown that any quick return to the ballot box would reward centre-right forces, including the right-wing League of Matteo Salvini and the nationalist Brothers of Italy. Conte's main partners in the current 16-month-old government are the populist 5-Star Movement and the centre-left Democratic party. This coalition had replaced another also headed by lawyer Conte that included Salvini's Eurosceptic party and the 5-Stars. With Renzi's support gone, Conte could attempt a cabinet shuffle. Alternatively, Mattarella could seek out a non-political figure to lead a government. Two names have been touted by political commentators: Mario Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief, and Marta Cartabia, who formerly headed Italy's constitutional court. Renzi brushed off criticism that he is irresponsibly provoking a government crisis in the middle of a pandemic. What were doing is called POLITICS: studying the cards and making proposals, he tweeted. The former PM is known for his power plays.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte won a confidence vote in the upper house Senate on 19 Janauary 2021. He failed to secure an absolute majority, however, meaning that Conte now headed a minority government that will struggle to implement its policy programme in the divided parliament unless it can flip some opposition lawmakers over the coming weeks. Having overcome a similar confidence motion in the lower house on Monday, Conte won in the 321-seat Senate by 156 to 140, with 16 abstentions. Had he lost, he would have had to resign, thrusting Italy deeper into political turmoil and potentially opening the way to new national elections, two years ahead of schedule.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tendered his resignation to the president 26 January 2021 after first informing ministers, the government's cabinet office has said. Conte is expected to then try and form a new government. The PM faced calls from within his own government to resign and assemble a new administration after losing his Senate majority days earlier when ex-PM Matteo Renzi withdrew his party from the coalition. Renzi's Italia Viva party resigned in response to the government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the country's economic recession a move that had thrown Italian politics into fresh disarray. Conte hoped that President Sergio Mattarella will give him the mandate to create a new government. The ruling parties want to avoid snap elections this time. Opinion polls suggest they would lead to victory for a center-right coalition comprising Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the League party.

On 03 February 2021 President Sergio Mattarella asked former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi to form a non-political government to steer Italy through the coronavirus pandemic after last-ditch negotiations among political parties failed. The head of state held talks with Draghi after efforts to salvage the collapsed coalition of outgoing Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had failed. Mattarella appealed "to all political forces [to support] a high-profile government", ruling out the only other possibility early elections as ill-advised given the array of challenges facing Italy. "Super Mario" Draghi will now hold talks with political parties to try and muster support in parliament for an administration that will be tasked with handling the twin coronavirus and economic crises battering Italy. The last time a technocrat took charge was in 2011, when another economist, Mario Monti, was entrusted with helping Italy out of a debt crisis. Parliamentarians soon turned on him when they deemed that his economic medicine was too pungent.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:04:36 ZULU