The early history of Italy is largely based on the history of Rome. In 1870 Italians had completed their union and became a nation under a constitutional monarchy. The bad consequences of World War One led to political and social unrest and made the way for Benito Mussolini’s rise and the fascist era had started. During the World War Two Mussolini’s fascist regime joined with Hitler’s Nazi Germany and suffered a huge defeat . This led to Mussolini’s arrest followed by a popular referandum in June 1946 which abolished the monarchy. Italy has been a democratic republic since then. Italians had faced a lot of political problems, different kinds of regimes so Italy has been witnessing problems of governance since it’s unification.
Italy consists of 20 administrative regions,but these have limited governing powers since the state is highly centralized.Only 5 regions Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige, Valle d’Aosta and Friuli-Venezia Giulia function with special autonomy statutes. It’s legal system is based on civil law. The constitution established a separate judiciary, a bicameral parliament and an executive branch composed of council of ministers, cabinet. The chief of the state is the President who is elected for 7 years by the parliament and the head of government is Prime Minister. The president chooses the prime minister who is also confirmed by the parliament. The parliament consists of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. Senate has 315 seats elected by popular voteof which 232 are directly elected and 83 are elected by regional propotional representation, there are also a small number of senators for life like former presidents in it. Chamber of deputies consists of 630 seats 475 are directly elected and 155 by regional propotional representation. So there is a mixed majoritarian and propotional representatio system.for the parliament and the members serve 5 year terms.
The current government is the 59th government since 1945 which came to power in June 2001, headed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, his right wing Forza Italia party governs a coalation with National Alliance and the Northern League which is called ‘House of Freedoms’.The president is Carlo Azeglio Ciampi since 13 May 1999.
Italy has witnessed small periods of political stability since the establishment of republic. 59 governments has served since the World War Two which shows the instability level. Mussolini’s fascism provided stability for a long time. During the post-war period Christian Democratic Party brought some stability. Italians were suffered from the fascist regime and the bad consequences of the 2nd World War so they became more attached to Church and felt more close to Christian parties until 80s. In 1981 the Republican Party became the first non-christian party that formed the government. The 90s were important for Italian political life. Corruptions took place. Several former prime ministers were involved in corruption cases.Thousands of businessman were jailed. The massive government debt, extensive corruption and the organised crime’s influence made the people demand for political economic and ethical reforms. According to a refrandum in 1993 people approved to change the electoral system from propotional to a largely majoritarian system and abolishment of some ministers.
The corruption scandals caused huge parties to loose confidence and left them out of power. The Christian Democratic Party dissolved. As a result new political parties emerged in 1994 national elections which created a major turning point for the parliament because more than half of the members were elected for the first time. Silvio Berlusconi’s party emerged in the elections with his ‘Freedom Pole’ coalition.The cabinet included several members of the neo-Fascist National Alliance . But this administration lasted only seven months. Berlusconi was brought down by some corruption charges and one member of his coalition withdrew support. Several center-left coalitions dominated ıtaly’s political arena in the late 1990’s. The Olive Tree coalition in 1996 under Prodi and in 1998 the governmnet formed by Democratic party of the left leader Massimo D’Alema. The leftist coalition collapsed because of the economic circumstances and in the 2001 national elections Berlusconi had a come back with a center-right coalition dominated by Berlusconi’s party, Forza Italia. The Olive Tree party now sits in the opposition.
The Prime Minister Berlusconi is one of the reason creating problems in governance in Italy. Although he was reelected , he still faces some charges about corruption and he claims that these are all conspiracy theories against him by a left wing judiciary. He is one of the world’s richest men, wealthiest politician in the world, owns television stations,top football team AC Milan, the Mediolanum bankleading newspaper Il Giornale, and the popular news magazine Panaroma. According to Roberto D’Alimonte there is no such thing in any western democray as the wealthiest man being the prime minister. He claims that many Italians feel that Berlusconi’s position and power as a businessman conflicts with the interests of the government. ‘Berlusconi has a problem of legitimacy , domestically and internationally’ D’Alimonte explained. A man who is so much in control of italian television and newspapaers shouldn’t have political career as such accoring to him. Also Berlusconi’s right wing cabinet includes some of the country’s most controversial politicians like Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini who described Mussolini as ‘the greatest statesman of the century’, and Minister for Reform and Devolution Umberto Bossi who has often expressed xenophobic views. (BBC NEWS.com)
The year 1994 is crucial for the problems of Italian politics. It is a year of change in İtalian politics. According to Robert Leonardi and Raffaella Y. Nanetti’s ‘Italy: Politics and Policy’ ‘Italian society is not governable without recourse to majoritarian principle.’ However it is also claimed that the Berlusconi government and majoritarian system worsened the ‘level of governability’. The change of votes in 1994 and 1996 elections is an important issue in Italian politics . The 1994 elections represents a break with the past electoral system and political parties. The collapse of Christian Democratic Party , Socialist parties and the change in electoral system from propotional representation to majoritarian system created a change in political market and voters adopted these changes to their electoral behaviour. Religion as an important issue that guided the past electoral behaviour was in decline while territory remained as an important factor to guide Italian voters. Secularization of Italy had weakened religion as an important influencer in voters behavior and the traditional left-right divisions continued. Some people who voted for Berlusconi in 1994 revoted him in 1996 elections while some changed their votes because the policies of center-right did not coincide with their class interests like the elderly, public sector workers, women because of the reduction in social services, budget cuts according to an article in Piergiorgio Corbetta , Arturo M. L. Parisi’s A Domanda Risponde: il cambiamento del voto degli italiani nelle elezioni del 1994 e del 1996 These internal divisions in the center- right was for the benefit of center-left in 1994 and 1996 elections. But things have totally changed in 2001 elections. The left won in the last elections by the help of their pact with the communists. In 2001 elections left’s biggest party didn’t agreed on a pact with the smaller parties of the left, so they lost to the center-right. Also Italian voters punished the small parties in 2001 elections because they wanted stability. Largest parties of the right and the left got the biggest votes. Similar election campaigns introduced by both sides like more efficient bureaucracy, promising tax cuts, dealing with crime and despite Berlusconi’s past Italians have preferred him as a Prime Minister.
The main reason of problems in governance is corruption in Italy. Corruption in politics is the failure of the law establishing public funding of the parties. It is the violation of the rules regulating the public financing of political parties. Public supports were to respond the financial needs of the parties which they are inefficient to solve through membership dues. Also it is to reduce the influence of the big economic groups over the parties and change their descisions. It was hoped that this would make politics more transparent. The problem with this is Italy was not used to these public help unlike other European countries. This law was introduced in 1974 in Italy. The law had weaknesses according to Linda Bull’s article ‘Public Money Political Parties and Corruption : The Italian Case’. It couldn’t discourage the use of illegal funds because it had no reliable controlling procedure , it did not satisfy all parties’ requirements equally and it encouraged the concentration of power in the center. This caused the individual politicians to use this money for their personal benefits. Also the amount of these funds were not sufficient. So the law encouraged corrupt behavior. Public started to get suspicious of political parties and politicians. So amendments made to the 1974 law in 1993. The amounts allocated to the parties have been increased in the 90’s. The 1993 law limited on funding and spending , restricted public contributions, allowed the use pf opinion polls near election time. A new controlling body , Courts of Accounts was set up to apply sanctions on those who violate the rules. Many important parties like Forza Italia ,The Christian Democratic Center have been fined after this law according to Linda Bull’s article. Despite the law corruptions still takes place because fines are not enough. The problem is with the political culture. Absence of an honest bureaucracy, weakness of modern civic culture and lack of respect for legality contributes to corruption.
The most famous problem of Italy , leading to problems in governance is the existence of the mafia. It is paradoxical that such a power taking place in a totally sovereign modern democracy. Mafia rules over a territory and shapes it by involving it’s economic growth and social welfare. It is a criminal and violent entity, can easily affect public and political institutions by using force and guarantee votes. It is the main builder of the economic gap between the north and the south. It has to be fought by judicial powers , police and all sectors of the society . Politicians have to get rid of the men of the mafia from political parties in order to govern the state. According to a study 80% of the shops in Sicily’s 2 largest cities, Palermo and Catania pay protection money to the mafia. Especially the southern parts of Italy are nearly not governable by the state but by the mafia. The main reason of this is the institutional and cultural weakness in south which favored the explosion of illegality. The southern cities lacked the establishment of programs to abolish law breakers. Because of these the south of Italy seems like another country. The gap between the north and the south is still high even after entering in the euro zone. This is the failure of the government to reform the constitution.
Although improvements viewed after entering in the euro Italy has been the Western Europe’s worst performing economy .The main reason could be the doubts of foreign investors ,which they need ,about the stability of the government. The investors are having difficulties in trusting Italy’s legal system. The politicians still interfering in state owned sector and the Milan stock market is still small. On the other hand less corruption has seen in important places since 1992 and the administrations have been clear according to a report by the Economist . Despite all these corruption problems that Italy faces , Italians don’t care about their Prime Minister’s past and conflict of interest.
Leonardi , Robert and Raffaella Y. Nanetti , Italy : Politics and Policy. Volume 1 Aldershot : Darthmouth , 1996
Bull , Linda : Public Money , Political Parties and Corruption .The Italian Case , Corbetta , Piergiorgio and Arturo M. L. Parisi A Domanda Risponde : il cambiamento del voto degli italiani nelle elezioni del 1994 e del 1996 :www.artsmcgill.ca/congrips/newslatter/48.1 html