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Government of Italy

Form of government
Head of state
Head of government

Voting qualifications
Highest court

Prime minister
Chamber of Deputies, 630
Senate, 326 senators
Universal at age 18 (except in
senatorial elections, for which
minimum age is 25)
1 January 1948; amended
Supreme Court of Cassation

Italy has been a democratic republic since June 2, 1946, when the
monarchy was abolished by popular referendum. It has a
parliamentary system of government with many political parties,
none of which commands a majority of popular votes. Italian society
remains strongly divided politically, and Italian governments have
often been weak and ineffective. Although Italys tumultuous politics
have produced more than 50 different governments since the advent
of the democratic system, order is maintained through a wellestablished bureaucracy that supports the elected offices.
Italy is governed by a constitution that came into effect on January 1,
1948. By the terms of the constitution, the reestablishment of the
Fascist Party (see Fascism) is prohibited; direct male heirs of the
house of Savoy (see Savoy, House of) are ineligible to vote or hold
any public office; and recognition is no longer accorded to titles of
nobility, although titles in existence prior to October 28, 1922, may
be used as part of the bearers name.


The executive branch of Italys government

is composed of the president, the council of
ministers, and the civil service. The president
of Italy is elected for a seven-year term by a
joint session of parliament augmented by 58
regional representatives. The president must
be at least 50 years old. Although head of
the government, the president usually has
little to do with the actual running of it.
These duties are in the hands of the prime
ministerwho is chosen by the president and
must have the confidence of parliament
and the Council of Ministers. The prime
minister (sometimes called the premier, or,
in Italy, president of the Council of Ministers)
generally is the leader of the party that has
the largest representation in the Chamber of

The Italian parliament consists of a Senate and a Chamber of

Deputies elected by popular suffrage for five-year terms of office.
Although both houses are legally equal, the Chamber of Deputies is
politically more influential, and most leading politicians in Italy are
members of it. For many years, Italian citizens voted for political
parties, and individual representatives were named by party leaders in

a proportional manner. But as a result of corruption scandals in the

early 1990s, a number of public referendums were passed in 1993
that mandated a more direct electoral system.

Today, three-fourths of the 630 seats in the

lower-house Chamber of Deputies and an
identical proportion of the 315 elected seats
in the upper-house Senate are filled by direct
candidate ballot, as in the United States. The
other 25 percent of seats are filled by a
system of proportional representation. There
are also life members in the Senate, a group
made up of past presidents and their
honorary nominees (each president is
entitled to make up to five such
appointments). Citizens must be 25 years of
age or older to vote for senators; in all other
elections, all citizens over age 18 are eligible
to vote. Members of the Senate must be at
least 40 years old; members of the Chamber
of Deputies, at least 25.

Italy has a Supreme Court

(Corte Supreme di Cassazione), which is the
highest court of appeal in all cases except
those concerning the constitution. There is
also a constitutional court, which is
analogous in function to the Supreme Court
of the United States, and is composed of 15
judges. Five of the judges are appointed by
the president of the republic, five by the
Senate and Chamber of Deputies jointly, and
five by the supreme law courts. The criminal
justice system includes district courts,
tribunals, and courts of appeal.
Local Government

Italy is divided into 20 regions, which are

subdivided into a total of 94 provinces. Each
region is governed by an executive
responsible to a popularly elected council.
The regional governments have considerable
authority. The chief executive of each of the
provinces, the prefect, is appointed by, and
answerable to, the central government and
in fact has little power. An elected council
and a provincial executive committee
administer each province. Every part of Italy
forms a portion of a commune, the basic unit
of local government, which may range in size
from a small village to a large city such as
Naples. Each commune is governed by a
communal council elected for a four-year
term by universal suffrage. Each council
elects a mayor.
E.Political Parties

During the first half of the 1990s, in the face of widespread political
scandal, Italy moved from a coalition system of politics that had long
been dominated by a single party to a more splintered system of
powerful new parties and alliances. The centrist Christian Democratic
Party, which had been part of 52 consecutive coalitions that had ruled
Italy since 1948, dissolved in January 1994. Its members formed two
separate parties, the Popular Party and the Christian Democratic
Center Party. A new conservative party, Forza Italia (Go, Italy), led
by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi, then emerged as a leading
political group. The far-right National Alliance, a successor of the
neo-Fascist Italian Social Movement, also gained prominence during
the 1990s.
The major left-wing party became the Democratic Party of the Left,
the new name adopted in 1991 by the Italian Communists, one of the
largest Communist parties in Western Europe. The party renounced
its Communist past and adopted more moderate policies, but a
smaller splinter group, the Communist Refoundation, continued to
espouse Marxist principles. The Northern League-Federal Italy
(known as the Northern League until 1995), begun in the 1980s as a
protest party, has advocated increased regional autonomy, at times
calling for Italy to be split into several federated republics. The
countrys minor parties include the Green Party, the Liberal Party of
Italy, several Socialist parties, the Republican Party of Italy, the
Radical Party, and the anti-Mafia Network Party.