Brief overview of the Italian Party System
After the end of World War II and for almost 50 years, Christian Democracy (Democrazia Christiana – DC) was the major party in the Italian party system. The largest opposition party until the 1990s was the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano – PCI). Other parties were the Italian Socialist Party (Partito Socialista Italiano – PSI) and the Italian Social Movement (Movimento Sociale Italiano – MSI). Many coalitions were formed between Christian Democracy and other parties until the collapse of the political system in the early 90’s due to “Tangentopoli” (a series of corruption scandals). During these events PCI was evolved into Democratic Party of the Left (Partito Democratico della Sinistra – PDS) and MSI into National Alliance (Alleanza Nationale). Within this emerging system a new party called Forza Italia came on top in 1994. Between 1996 and 2008 two big coalitions were formed, Pole for Freedoms (Forza Italia, the National Alliance, Christian Democratic Centre and the United Christian Democrats) and The Olive Tree (Democratic Party of the Left, Italian People’s Party, Italian Renewal, Federation of the Greens, Italian Socialists, Democratic Union).
The Italian party system changed again radically in 2013. The major economic crisis altered the scenery in which was now added Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement and a new coalition around Mario Monti’s Civic Choice. The special characteristics of Italian party system as well as the barriers of the electoral law force Italian parties to form coalitions and make alliances in national and regional level.
Main Political Parties in the 2013 General Elections
For the general election of 2013 two major coalitions where formed.
The first is “Italy. Common Good (Italia. Bene Comune)” by Pier Luigi Bersani which was formed in 2012 and the major parties that involved was the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico – PD), along with Left Ecology Freedom (Sinistra Ecologia Liberta – SEL), Democratic Center (Centro Democratico – CD) and South Tyrolean People’s Party (Partito Popolare Sudtirolese).
The second electoral coalition was the Center – Right Coalition led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The major parties coalition included People of Freedom (Il Popolo della Liberta – PdL), Northern League (Lega Nord – LN) and Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia – FdI).
The center-left coalition had a clear advantage in the Chamber of Deputies but People of Freedom managed to gain the most Senate seats. In the Senate no coalition or party won an outright majority which led to a period of disputations and ongoing discussions until the final government scheme between center-left, center and center-right was framed.
Democratic Party (Partito Democratico – PD) is a social-democratic political party, the larger both in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Its’ general secretary Matteo Renzi, is the Prime Minister since 22 February 2014. PD was founded in 2007 but has its roots in the center – left coalition “The Olive Tree”, founded by the former Prime Minister Mario Mondi. It is a merger of various left wing and centrist parties, among whom the Democrats of the Left (Democratici di Sinistra – DS), who where heirs of the Italian Communist Party and the Christian Leftists. PD has joined the Party of European Socialists and mainly under its latest leaders, stands up for constitutional reform in Italy. PD has its strongholds in northern-central Italy and big cities.
Forza Italia (FI) launched in 1994 by Silvio Berlusconi, former Prime Minister and major political figure in Italy for over 20 years. Between 2008 and 2011, FI was part of People of Freedom (Il Popolo della Liberta – PdL), an alliance between FI and the far-right party of Gianfranco Fini, National Alliance (Alleanza Nazionale – AN). FI is a liberal conservative political party which has been characterized by its leader and his involvement in scandals and conviction in tax-fraud. Its rhetoric includes persistence in traditional values, “freedom” and “centrality of the individual”. FI’s electoral base has been highly heterogeneous with many ideological differences among its voters. For many analysts FI is a “catch-all” party with populist features.
Five Star Movement
Five Star Movement (MoVimento Cinque Stelle – M5S) is a party which was founded in 2009 and gained power among the disappointed voters of main Italian parties and resulted as a consequence of the economic crisis. His leader Beppe Grillo is a famous comedian, activist and blogger. For many analysts M5S is a populist, partially eurosceptic with anti-systemic characteristics party while its members insist that they participate in a movement, not a party. M5S advocates direct democracy, non-violence and degrowth. The “five stars” are a reference to: public water, sustainable transport, development, connectivity and environmentalism.
Lega Nord is a federalist and regionalist political party founded in 1991 by Umberto Rossi. Lega advocates greater regional autonomy of the north, which calls Padania. Between 2008 and 2011 participated in the government alliance with the center-right People of Freedom (Forza Italia and National Alliance) under Silvio Berlusconi. It is has strong anti-immigration and xenophobic rhetoric, along with racist and eurosceptic characteristics. Regarding to social issues Lega takes a socially conservative stance and supports “Christian identity”. In fact Lega has been censured as a populist party of the extreme right. It is stronger in the North and Northeastern Italy and among Catholics.
Civic Choice (Scelta Civica – SC) is a liberal, centrist political party, launched in 2013 to support the outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti and his strategies to reform Italy. In 2013 general election SC cooperated with the Union of the Center (Pier Ferdinando Casini) and Future and Freedom (Gianfranco Fini) under the electoral coalition “With Monti for Italy”. Since April 2013 SC has been a part of the coalition government by Enrico Letta and in February 2014 supported Matteo Renzi’s government formation.
Left Ecology Freedom
Left Ecology Freedom (Sinistra Ecologia Liberta – SEL) is a democratic – socialist party founded in 2010 as a left-wing coalition of parties mainly by former members of the Communist Refoundation Party (Partito della Rifondazione Comunista – PRC). Party leader’s is Nichi Vendola and in 2013 general election SEL was part of the center-left coalition “Italy. Common Good” by Pier Luigi Bersani. SEL supports ecological movements, human rights, endorses same-sex marriages and introduced an initiative for guaranteed minimum income.
Union of the Center
Union of the Center (Unione di Centro – UdC) is a Christian democratic party founded in 2008 and its leader is Pier Ferdinando Casini. Union of Christian and Center Democrats (Unione dei Democratici Christiani e di Centro) is UdC’s main component along with smaller regional parties. The party gains its electoral power mainly in the South of Italy and especially in Sicilia. UdC is a conservative party particularly regarding to social issues, such as abortion, gay rights and euthanasia. In the European Parliament is member of the European People’s Party. In 2013 general election UdC was a part of the electoral coalition “With Monti for Italy”.