I. Foundation of the Italian Republic

The political and political foundation of today's Italy was laid in the years immediately after the Second World War and the fall of the fascist regime. Here you can read everything you need to know about modern Italian politics.

In June 1946, in a popular vote the Republic proclaimed. A (slim) majority of voters did not forgive King Vittorio Emanuele III for supporting Mussolini for twenty years and then running away in 1943, when the war seemed lost. The monarch tried to save the monarchy by abdicating in favor of his son, Umberto II, but in vain. The royal family was voted out and the male members banned 'forever', a ban that has since been lifted. Italy still had a monarchist party for many years, but it gradually became smaller and in 1972 it was merged into the neo-fascist MSI.

On January 1, 1948, the Constitution of the Italian Republic in operation. The constitution laid down therein is, with some changes and additions of a later date, still in force. (See below, Chap. V)

On April 18 of the same year, the first post-war general elections were held, including universal women's suffrage for the first time. Three major parties took part in this: the Christian Democracy (DC), the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and the Italian Socialist Party (PSI). In addition, a series of small ones: liberals, social democrats, republicans and neo-fascists.

The latter were united in the Italian Social Movement, which did not formally call itself a fascist party – that was banned in post-war Italy – but half a word was enough for a good listener. The name echoed the Repubblica Sociale Italiana, as Nazi Germany's puppet state in northern Italy from 1943-45 was called. And its main followers, starting with founder Giorgio Almirante, came from the diehard fascism.

PCI and PSI had united in a Popular Front, which seemed to stand a good chance of winning, also because the communists in particular had earned their spurs in the anti-fascist struggle. But after an intensive campaign by the Catholic Church and rich subsidies from America, which was keen to avoid a red stronghold in Western Europe, the DC achieved an irresistible victory. With 48% of the vote, she won more than half of the seats and was thus able to rule. The communists moved into opposition and that would remain the situation for almost half a century.

II The First Republic (1948-92)

Italy is at its 2018 . in 68e post-war cabinet. That means governments lasted no longer than a year on average, which could indicate major instability. Still, that's okay. It is true that there have been many government crises, but they have not always led to early elections. Italy will be 23 . as of March 2018, 18e legislature (parliamentary term) since 1948, which means that on average only once every four years had to be voted.

In essence, post-war Italy was fairly stable politically. The Christian Democrats ruled and, when their support dwindled over the years, they could count on the support of liberals, republicans, social democrats and, since the 60s, also socialists. The communists were in opposition, albeit not everywhere: in the 'red regions' of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and Umbria they supplied the regional government, as well as in many large cities, but nationally they were left out of the game.

After the first DC governments under the widely esteemed foreman Alcide De Gasperi (1948-53), the game for power was largely waged within the DC, within which currents (movements) formed around potentates with names such as Fanfani, Andreotti and Forlani. They could make and break governments, but essentially there was no room for drastic change. For that reason, the Italy of those years is also described as a 'blocked democracy'.

Miracolo economico and blocked democracy

For many Italians, there was also little reason to want change. Those were the years of the Miraco Economico: the penniless Italy of 1945 and the touchingly sad took it neorealism made a huge leap forward: the average per capita income increased by more than 1950% between 1970 and 130 and continued to grow steadily thereafter. Most of the population got their own house, car, refrigerator and TV. And after the PSI joined a series of 'centre-left' governments in 1963, improvements in working conditions, health care and education also came.

But the blocked democracy and the accompanying political stagnation also had disastrous consequences. The gap between rich and poor remained large and poverty was still widespread, especially in the south. The North-South divide, which has plagued Italy since the unification, persisted, despite billions of dollars in aid to the South, which was often not used productively. The mafia and related organizations continued to suppress political and social life in the South. And corruption was rampant.

This immobility and abuses led to restlessness among both far-left and far-right groups, who opted for extra-parliamentary, often violent, action to set the juggernaut in motion. Reactionary soldiers, aristocrats, and spies hatched two or three coup plans in the 60s and 70s, but they never came to fruition. They were supported in this by right-wing extremist terrorists whose aim was to create a climate of fear and uncertainty, and with it the call for a strong man and an authoritarian regime.

On the left, the Parisian May Revolution of 1968 aroused great expectations. In Italy too, students, intellectuals and politicized workers wanted the 'imagination in power': democratic education, self-government, free love. Indeed, something changed. Popular votes in 1974 and 1981 allowed divorce and abortion, respectively. But that was not enough for some of the now radicalized young people: they also resorted to weapons and bombs.

Red and Black Terrorism

Post-war Italy had faced terrorism before. Between 1964-67, XNUMX people were killed in Alto Adige (South Tyrol) attacks by German-speaking extremists who campaigned for membership of Austria. But one for the South Tyrolean favorable agreement – ​​securing both their language and their income – ended this terrorism. It only started then for the rest of Italy. In the years 1969-88, the country was rocked by more than 15.000 terrorist attacks that left a total of 420 dead and more than 1000 injured.

That is why this period is in the Italian history known as the Anni di Piombo, the Years of Lead. In doing so, the 'red terrorists', united in groups such as the Red Brigades (BR), Prima Linea and Unità Comuniti Combattenti, mainly targeted persons who were regarded as symbols of the capitalist state: politicians, soldiers, journalists, etc. The ' black terrorists', with clubs such as Avanguardia Nazionale, Ordine Nuovo and Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari (NAR) committed more haphazard attacks, intended to create an atmosphere of insecurity.

The most notorious 'black' feat of arms was the NAR attack on Bologna station in 1980, in which 80 people were killed. The BR's most radical action, in 1978, was the kidnapping and murder of the Christian Democratic leader Aldo Moro (including the killing of his five-man escort).

This action also had political consequences. Former Prime Minister Moro was working on an agreement with the communists, who had by now abandoned the revolutionary ideal. From this 'historical compromise' (historical commitment) a grand coalition of DC and PCI was to emerge. With the death of Moro, this experiment also came to an end.

Milan to drink

The Italian state reacted harshly and effectively. One by one, red and black terrorists were tracked down, arrested or killed and often brutally interrogated. By 1985 the terrorist threat had been contained and the country entered a new period of growth. For the first time, the DC did not necessarily supply the prime minister. Republican Giovanni Spadolini (1981-82) and socialist Bettino Craxi (1983-87) became the first non-Christian democratic heads of government of the Italian Republic.

the reigning pentapartito (coalition of DC, PSI, Pri, PLI and PSDI) managed to please the whole of Italy for years. Workers and unions were appeased by generous wage rounds and the creation of jobs in the public sector; shopkeepers and small business owners with unofficially tolerated mass tax evasion; industrialists with government contracts and soft loans from state banks; politicians with jobs for their clientele; and the mafia with a mild investigative policy.

This lazy country – in Milan characterized as Milano da bere (to drink) – came at a price, though. Lost taxes, bad loans, bribes, overpaid and redundant government jobs, rigged tenders, expensive and often useless infrastructures (the famous cathedrals in the desert), it all costs money, a lot of money, and in these years the enormous national debt has grown, which Italy still has to deal with. Moreover, this system, led by political parties with increasingly large devices financed by illegal donations, fostered massive corruption. Things couldn't go on smoothly and in 1992 the bomb indeed exploded.

III The Second Republic (1992-?)

On February 17, 1992, Mario Chiesa, a socialist party official in Milan, decided to talk to a prosecutor, who in the following years became known as the man who would wash Italy's political swine stable: Antonio Di Pietro. Chiesa had been caught red-handed taking bribes that he first tried to flush down the toilet. When that didn't work, he chose eggs for his money, confessed and patched up everyone he'd done business with.

It was the start of the judicial investigation Hands Clean (Clean Hands) which, started in Milan, soon swept across Italy like a whirlwind. For two years, Italy has been the scene of searches, arrests, televised interrogations, public indictments, high profile confessions and some suicides of suspects. It marked the end of the five parties that had ruled until then, all of which had taken five million in bribes, either for the movement or for the politicians personally.

In 1994 the contaminated DC disbanded to make way for two other, much smaller formations, the progressive Catholic Partito Popolare Italiano (PPI) led by  Romano Prodi, and the conservative UDC. The PSI shattered into a trio of splinters as most of its adherents swarmed into other formations. The three small parties – Liberals, Republicans and Social Democrats – fell victim to a new electoral system, with a 4% electoral threshold that none of the three could afford.

A beautiful series was made about the Second Republic that started in 1992, which started with the season 1992 and it was followed by the season 1993 en 1994 (still in production in the spring of 2018).

Berlusconi's feat

The former communists were largely spared in this political clear-cut. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the PCI had been busy transforming itself into a social-democratic party along the lines of Northern Europe. In 1991 the PCI was renamed Partito Democratico di Sinistra (PDS: Democratic Left Party).

Seven years later this became the DS (Democratici di Sinistra), which in 2007, together with the PPI, Prodi's party, merged into the current Partito Democratico (PD). The left-wing party, which had not been part of the government and had generally run decently in the region, was much less affected by Clean hands and therefore seemed destined to win the March 1994 elections gloriously in the absence of serious opposition. But the progressives had not counted on the innkeeper Berlusconi.

Silvio Berlusconi was already one of the richest and most famous Italians at that time, owning three national TV stations, the country's largest advertising agency, magazines and newspapers and the AC Milan of Gullit, Rijkaard and Van Basten, with whom he 1993 already three times the title (the national championship) and twice won the Champion's League. In addition, he had the right political contacts, especially with former Prime Minister Craxi, to whom he owed a de facto monopoly on commercial TV. But in a victory for the left, who wanted to open up the airwaves, he risked losing it, while the Milan court also had a series of investigations against him for corruption and tax fraud.

As a last resort, he opted for an unexpected move: going into politics to take over the government. At the end of 1993 he set himself up as leader of the new political party Forza Italia (FI), which immediately jumped into the political void left by DC and PSI. Publitalia's offices became party offices, his managers campaign managers and his media (and even his footballers) touted him as the savior of the nation, the only 'new man' who could save Italy from a 'Communist takeover'.

In addition, he performed a diplomatic feat by forging an alliance with two other political newcomers, both right-wing but with very different starting points. The Lega Nord had been in existence as a northern Italian separatist movement since 1989 and already had a significant following, especially in the Lombardy province. But the pact between its leader Umberto Bossi and Berlusconi also made her a national player.

On the far right, the neo-fascist MSI, which had also suffered relatively little from Clean hands, renamed Alleanza Nazionale (AN) in January 1994, described by its leader Gianfranco Fini as a 'post-fascist' conservative people's party. Ideologically, the extreme national AN, which caused a furore among former conservative DC voters especially in the center and south, was miles away from the regionalists of the League, but because both wanted to rule, Berlusconi managed to unite them. in a wondrous coalition that triumphed gloriously on March 28, 1994. The transition to the Second Republic – with new parties, new names and a new district-based electoral system – was thus completed.

Prodi .'s turn

The first Berlusconi cabinet fell in December 1994, when Lega leader Bossi withdrew his ministers after months of bickering with the prime minister. A business cabinet under former finance minister Lamberto Dini followed current affairs for more than a year, after which a progressive Catholic coalition called L'Ulivo (The Olive Tree) led by PPI leader Romano Prodi won the 1996 elections. For the first time, Italy, where conservatives have traditionally been in the majority, got a progressive government.

But that was also due to the fact that FI and Lega entered the elections separately this time and could therefore not get a majority of seats. The Prodi government successfully led Italy into the euro group, including by introducing a temporary 'euro tax' to reduce the budget deficit.

But the further reforms Prodi had planned to introduce fell short as he was knocked out by dissidents within his own coalition after just two years. He was succeeded by leftist leader Massimo D'Alema, who in 1999 approved Italy's participation in the NATO bombing of Serbia. D'Alema resigned after the regional elections in 2000 turned out badly for his party, after which an intermediate cabinet stalled for another year until the 2001 elections.

The result was a triumph for the centre-right alliance Casa delle Liberta (House of the Liberties). It was also the first glorious return of Berlusconi who had managed to revive the coalition with Lega, AN and conservative Catholics, while also taking advantage of the poor results of previous progressive cabinets. 

Berlusconi was able to rule for five years with a large majority in parliament. At the time, Italy took part in the 'peace missions' in Afghanistan and Iraq. Illegal migration, previously a violation, was declared a crime; stricter drug laws were introduced; under the Minister of the Interior, successes were achieved in the fight against the mafia; and the labor market became somewhat more flexible.

Laws 'ad personam'

But the period was mainly characterized by a large number of laws and bills that primarily served to indemnify Berlusconi himself in a series of corruption trials and which are therefore known as the leggi ad personam. Laws were passed to:

  • To exempt the Prime Minister from legal action;
  • To make an appeal after acquittal impossible;
  • To remove accounting fraud from the Criminal Code;
  • To halve the statute of limitations in corruption cases; and so forth.

Often these laws were later declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, but for Berlusconi, this meant months, if not years, had passed as the statute of limitations of his cases was once again approaching. It meant, however, that the government and parliament were always preoccupied with Berlusconi's private affairs for months on end.

Of the many criticisms leveled at Berlusconi's actions in recent years, this is perhaps the most serious: that he was more concerned with his own interests than those of his country. His involvement in fraud and corruption cases and his tinkering with young girls and call girls, while providing a little elevating moral example, have certainly been damaging to Italy's standing in the world. But especially damaging to the Italian nation was the failure to address the country's main problems:

  • The stifling bureaucracy;
  • The slowness of the judicial mill;
  • The social immobility;
  • The small investment in education and research;
  • The power of lobbies and interest groups;
  • The national debt; corruption, nepotism and waste.

In addition to negligence, this is also a political choice: any change simply encounters opposition from groups that are affected or do not benefit from it, which leads to a loss of political support. Berlusconi's (and not his own) policy was to avoid offending vested interest groups (perhaps with the exception of the trade unions).

In the 2006 elections, Berlusconi was defeated for the second time by Prodi. But thanks to an ingenious new electoral law wrought by Berlusconi's minister Calderoli, he gained only a tiny majority in the Senate. And because it consisted of an extremely mixed company from conservative Catholics to convinced Communists, he could hardly conduct policy: with every targeted measure he risked the vote against a few members of the coalition, together with the entire opposition that usually a priori in Italy. against any proposal from the government (and vice versa).

The most notable, and controversial, measure was a three-year sentence for the vast majority of detainees, a response to a Pope's request and a way to make room in Italy's overcrowded prisons. In 2008, Prodi's cabinet fell when Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, a political opportunist who is just as likely to choose the left as the right, resigned after his wife was placed under house arrest over a fraud case. (In reality, Mastella overthrew the government to oppose the introduction of a new electoral law that would have harmed his own little Catholic party. UD DOOR.)

bunga bunga

With the snap elections of 2008, Berlusconi returned as head of government for the third time. But this time his cabinet lasted just three years. At the time, he concluded a friendship treaty with the Libyan dictator Gaddafi, who, dressed in a carnival-esque uniform, received a grand reception in Rome. Unfortunately, three years later, in 2011, Berlusconi was forced to reconsider, when the French had to join military interventions in Libya and Italy in order not to be left behind in his former colony.

Furthermore, this period was marked by the earthquake in L'Aquila, a waiver scheme for black money abroad and another law ad-person. But the most sensation, at home and abroad, was the affair with Ruby, a minor Moroccan prostitute with whom the prime minister appeared to be very well acquainted. So good that when she was arrested in Milan on suspicion of theft, Berlusconi called the police station and ordered her to be released because she was the niece of then Egyptian President Mubarak. (In a highly publicized hearing, the FI-dominated Camera dei Deputati subsequently declared this version credible.)

This, and the discovery of dozens of very young Ruby colleagues who were valued guests on so-called bunga bunga parties at the prime minister's house, was manna for the media, but did not contribute to Berlusconi's international prestige. That became even less so when he vehemently denied the emerging economic crisis for years. 'There is no crisis at all. The restaurants in Milan are packed,' he stated in 2011.

Moreover, when doubts about Berlusconi's promises to reduce the budget deficit – the laugh of understanding with which Presidents Merkel and Sarkozy responded when asked, spoke volumes – the situation became critical. International markets lost confidence, Italian government bond yields jumped and, under strong moral pressure from President Napolitano, Berlusconi resigned in November 2011.

In his place, Napolitano appointed economist and former European Commissioner Mario Monti, who ruled until the 2013 elections with an almost wall-to-wall business cabinet. In those eighteen months, Monti managed to restore international confidence somewhat, while some of his ministers introduced important measures. Elsa Fornero of Social Affairs introduced a gradual increase in the retirement age, which could lead to significant savings in the long run.

And Paola Severino of Justice wrote a law under which persons with (final) convictions up to more than three years in prison are not allowed to hold public office and therefore cannot stand for election. That was politically deadly for Berlusconi, who in the summer of 2013, against all odds, especially his own, was sentenced to four years in prison for tax evasion. In the end, thanks in part to Prodi's 2006 waiver scheme, he only had to do some social work in a retirement home, but from a political point of view he now seemed definitively out of touch.

The Five Star Movement, a political tsunami

History repeats itself: it's a cliché, but it's often true. This became apparent in the 2013 elections. The Partito Democratico seemed to be heading for an easy victory after Berlusconi's disastrous performance, but again, just like in 1994, a newcomer threw a spanner in the works: the Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle: M5S). The M5S is the Italian version of the 'populist' resistance against the traditional political elite, commonly described in Italy as the caste (The Caste), after the title of a 2007 bestseller.

That same year, comedian Beppe Grillo started a series of protest rallies called Vaffa Day (Rot Op Dag), where he made vitriol-soaked libels against all incumbent politicians and their privileges. At the same time, he started a political blog, on which sympathizers found each other and which formed the core of the M2009S, founded in October 5, the first 'cyber party' in the world.

This was mainly possible thanks to the contribution of the co-founder and actual patriarch of the M5S, the computer scientist Roberto Casaleggio, who had devised 'direct online democracy' years before: every supporter should be able to have a say and submit proposals about everything via the internet. , after which the web community makes a decision.

Since many supporters change their minds on a regular basis, this means that the M5S's views are quite flexible. For example, on the immigration issue, the movement has quickly moved from a hospitable stance to a close-border policy, similar to that of the League. And its original anti-European stance has also been watered down considerably since government participation is a real possibility.

In practice, digital democracy is also not nearly as democratic as it seems: the flow of data is managed by the company Casaleggio Associati, now led by Davide, son of Gianroberto, who died in 2016, and who also earn from the advertising on the blogs of Grillo and the M5S. Grillo and Casaleggio (Jr.) closely monitor the actions of the candidates and representatives of M5S and dissidents are immediately expelled.

Furthermore, in the run-up to municipal elections in Milan and Genoa, Grillo personally replaced the candidates nominated via the net with persons of his preference. After good results in a couple of municipal elections, the M5S thundered into the 2013 election campaign with a massively attended 'Tsunami Tour' by Grillo and a simple radical program: down with the privileges of the politicians; referendum on the euro; basic income for all; no cooperation whatsoever with traditional parties, etc. It gave them the most votes for the House (25,5%) and slightly less for the Senate, for which young people under 25 cannot vote.

Thanks to the electoral system, the center-left coalition of PD secretary Pierluigi Bersani won a majority in the House, but not in the Senate. Bersani tried to negotiate with the M5s, but was ridiculed by them. President Napolitano then ordered the formation of the PD's second man, Enrico Letta, who then forged a grand coalition of PD, Forza Italia and a series of smaller parties, with the exception of M5S, Lega Nord and the far left.

After six months, the FI ministers resigned in protest at the Senate decision to cancel Berlusconi's seat following his conviction. Four ministers, led by Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano, remained seated and formed a new party, the Nuovo Centro Destra (NCD: New Center Right). The Letta government started putting Mare Nostrum, the most extensive to date to rescue drowning people and intercept people smugglers after the major immigration influx in the wake of the Arab Spring of 2011.

But Letta's days were soon numbered. In December 2013, the PD elected the young mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, as secretary, then demanded the resignation of Letta in favor of Renzi. This happened, much to Letta's dismay, in February 2014.

The Rise and Fall of Matteo Renzi

Renzi, who has been the scrapping (demolition) of the old political class, took office with the same coalition as the previous cabinet, with Alfano staying on as deputy prime minister. He himself brought a series of new ministers, mostly young, with the exception of the finance minister, Pier Carlo Padoan. The former director of the IMF and former deputy director of the OECD is a man of authority in Brussels and reportedly one of the few Renzi listens to. The Renzi government implemented a series of measures in a short period of time:

  • A reform of the overly rigid labor market;
  • An extra contribution of 80 euros per month for less earning employees;
  • Abolition of the property tax on the first house (Berlusconi had done that before, but under Monti the tax had been reintroduced);
  • Increase in the lowest pensions;
  • An education reform;
  • The introduction of the cohabitation contract for gay couples.

Many measures cost extra money, and Renzi regularly traveled to Brussels to demand more budget space at a high pitch. Nevertheless, it seems that the Italian economy has finally been revived in recent years: the recession seems to be over, GDP is growing again (slightly but still), unemployment is starting to fall and both exports and domestic consumption are rising.

Renzi could credit some of that, but he exaggerated. In the thousand days of his reign, his triumphant demeanor, his tendency to taunt opponents, and his personal court of Tuscan advisers and pump-jacks, also antagonized many Italians. Including the left wing of his own PD, which regrouped in 2017 under the name Free and Equal (LEU: Free and Equal). Renzi's arrogance broke him on what should have been his greatest achievement: the revision of the Constitution.

This far-reaching change of the Italian constitution  – see below, chap. V – was adopted by both arms of parliament after a long and arduous parliamentary debate and only needed to be ratified by a popular vote. Mistakenly thinking that he had the support of the majority of Italians – after all, his PD had reached a whopping 2014% in the 40,8 European elections – Renzi presented the referendum not as a choice for a necessary administrative reform but as a vote for or against himself. The result was there: on December 4, 2016, almost 60% voted against the reform and thus against Renzi, who resigned a few days later to be succeeded by foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni.

The new prime minister was tasked by President Mattarella (chosen in 2015 to succeed the then 89-year-old Napolitano) to govern the country until parliament (again) drafted a new electoral law. In the year 2017, Gentiloni broadly continued the policy of Renzi, but with a completely different style: calm, willing to compromise, without boasting and without quarreling in Brussels or with the unions. A bit boring actually, but after the exuberance of Berlusconi and Renzi, the Italians loved it and at the beginning of 2018 Gentiloni was the most popular politician in the country. (Except for President Mattarella, but as a head of state he does not count as a politician.)

During the Gentiloni government, Italy finally got a 'bio-testament', through which the terminally ill can decide to stop the treatment. Interior Minister Marco Minniti has succeeded in limiting the flow of immigration from North Africa thanks to a - controversial but so far effective - agreement with Libyan warlords. And in November, Mattarella signed the new electoral law. On December 28, 2017, he dissolved the House and Senate, so that voting can take place on March 4, 2018, five years after the previous elections. In the meantime, Gentiloni, who has not had to resign and is therefore not formally resigned, can continue to rule until the formation of a new government, which could take quite a while.

Towards the Third Republic? 

the umpteenth return of Berlusconi: that is the most remarkable aspect of the campaign towards the 2018 elections. Although he cannot stand as a candidate under the Severino Act, he now successfully plays the role of Kingmaker, although he keeps the name of his nominee for prime minister still scrupulously secret. Moreover, he has again succeeded - as in 1994 and 2001 - in forming a broad centre-right coalition of FI, Lega, the small right-wing national formation Fratelli d'Italia, plus some right-wing splinters, which are by far the largest factions in Parliament will deliver.

On March 4, roughly three blocs will face each other: in addition to Berlusconi's coalition, these are the center-left, formed by the PD plus a series of small parties, including the radicals of former European Commissioner Emma Bonino, and the M5S, which does not want to enter into an alliance with other groups but is willing to talk after the elections.

The latter is the line of the young 'political leader' and candidate Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio. He is only too eager to rule, even if this obscures the original revolutionary purity. That has brought him into conflict with Grillo, who is gradually turning away from his creation and barely active in the campaign. Finally, on the left, the LEU group, separated from the PD, joins in. There are still some splinter parties on the right, including openly fascist parties, but the chance that they will reach the electoral threshold is very small.

The new electoral law, necessitated by the Constitutional Court declaring the previous two to be contrary to the Constitution, provides a thorough reshuffle of parliament. Elections are based on a mix of two electoral systems, one proportional representation system and another in which one candidate stands for each district. In addition, there is an electoral threshold of 3%.

This hybrid system works in favor of coalitions and eliminates small parties. In this way, the center right has a chance of gaining a majority of seats with about 40% of the votes. However, it is more likely that none of the three blocks succeeds and that it will be a very difficult formation.

IV. Foreign policy

In the field of foreign policy, post-war Italy immediately joined the West. The country signed the Atlantic Pact, NATO's founding act, in 1949 and in 1958 was one of the six founders of the EEC, the forerunner of the EU. Since then, foreign policy has always remained European and Atlantic, although the European fire has been extinguished somewhat in recent years.

The changeover to the euro and the accompanying price increases and the lack of solidarity of the other Member States in the immigration crisis of recent years have caused bad blood among many Italians, but certainly not enough to seriously consider leaving Europe. Furthermore, Italy has been striving for good ties with the Arab world since the 60s, even if this is not always to the liking of the Americans in particular.

There are good reasons for this: for Italy these are neighboring countries, and as such are not only of economic but also of political importance. Only good relations with the other side of the Mediterranean can help to stem the flow of migration from North Africa. Moreover, these countries are of great importance as suppliers of oil and gas to Italy, which itself is poor in energy and therefore traditionally not in favor of boycotts in this part of the world.

Nevertheless, Italy faithfully participated in all the major military actions of NATO and UN of recent years: Iraq 1990, Kosovo 1999, Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 2003 and Libya 2011. Berlusconi, as head of government, showed a special empathy for powerful rulers such as Gaddafi, Putin and Erdogan (whom he invited en passant to the EU). But since his departure, all that has remained is Lega and M5S's admiration for Putin, and with it their categorical 'no' to any form of boycott of Russia.

V. The Italian Constitution

De Constitution of the Italian Republic has been in effect since 1948, with some changes and additions made over the years. art. 1 reads: L'Italia è una Repubblica democratica fondata sul lavoro (based on work). That sentence was a compromise between the communists, who wanted the workers' movement mentioned, and the Christian Democrats, who didn't like it. It roughly means that, in addition to democratic principles, the Italian state also defends the interests of the working population.

According to the Constitution, the head of state is elected by the full parliament President. (Now that is Sergio Mattarella.) In the event of a government crisis, he can dissolve parliament and, in consultation with the government, call new elections and then designate the formateur of a new cabinet. Laws passed by parliament only come into effect after the president has signed them.

The function is mainly symbolic – the president represents national unity – but it happens quite regularly that a president sends back a law because it is not in order under constitutional law or financially poorly substantiated. In 2011, then-President Giorgio Napolitano under severe moral pressure on Prime Minister Berlusconi to resign, which he did at the time.

Ping pong between House and Senate

Legislative power rests with a Parlement which consists of a Senate of 315 members (plus a few president-appointed "senators for life") and a House of Representatives of 630 members. Both are directly elected in general elections, with the difference that for the Camera all Italians can vote from the age of 18 and 25 to be elected, while in the Senate active suffrage applies from 25 years and passive suffrage from 40 (!) year. Typical for Italy is that the House and Senate have almost the same powers, in terms of legislation and amendment. In practice, this means that bills can take a long time to process, because they are played back and forth like a ping-pong ball between the two branches of parliament.

As elsewhere in Europe, executive power rests with the Government, which in Italy consists of a cabinet that often has deputy ministers in addition to ministers and secretaries of state. Usually the members come from the political parties, but it is not uncommon for non-political specialist ministers to sit in the cabinet. Sometimes even the prime minister is not a politician, such as Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, head of government in 1993-94 and president from 1999-2006, from the Italian Central Bank. Italian cabinets are often quite large. Expanded by the desire to help all participating parties and currents to government functions, they sometimes number more than a hundred members.

Slow judicial process

De judiciary is in principle completely independent of the government in Italy. That principle enshrined in the Constitution is a reaction to the previous period when, under fascism, the court was also subordinate to the regime. Appointments and oversight are governed by a self-governing body, the Supreme Council of the Judiciary (CSM: Superior Council of the Judiciary). It is formally chaired by the President and has 24 members: XNUMX judges and prosecutors and eight MPs.

Furthermore, the legal system derived from the Napoleonic model can be compared with the Dutch one. On the understanding that Italian officers cannot be dismissed easily, that a convicted person cannot receive a higher sentence on appeal and that Italian magistrates often use an extremely formalistic reasoning. As a result, most courts are faced with huge backlogs and cases (especially civil law) can take years and years.

According to the Constitution, Italy is made up of provinces and municipalities. In 1970 a fourth administrative layer was added: the regions. The provinces were abolished by law in 2014, but because implementing decrees were never followed, the situation in practice has remained the same. Some larger provinces are now called metropolitan city, but that's about it. Italy counts now 20 Regions, of which five have the status of Regione a Status special with a high degree of cultural and fiscal independence:

89 Provinces and 14 Città Metropolitane and 7982 Municipalities (Comuni). They are often very small: 57 Italian municipalities, for example, have fewer than 100 inhabitants. Nowadays, some small municipalities are being merged, but it is going slowly.

Failed referendum

The division of powers between the various administrative entities is not always clearly defined. In particular, national government and regions often quarrel about who gets to make certain decisions in areas such as spatial planning, culture and public health. To put an end to this, as well as to the double decision-making in the House and Senate, the Renzi government (2014-16) designed a Constitutional amendment in which 1) it was clearly stated that in the event of a disagreement, the national government has the say and 2) the power of the Senate was severely curtailed, to approximately that of the Dutch Senate.

After a long and arduous process, the amendment to the law was passed by both branches of parliament and then only had to be passed by a popular vote be validated. However, that did not happen: in the popular vote of December 4, 2016, a majority voted against. Although it was more a vote against Renzi than against the proposed amendment to the law, the result was that modernization failed to materialize and nothing changed.

This information has been written and checked by Aart Heering, journalist and historian.