In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Italian Politics and Government

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Textbooks
  • The Executive Branch
  • The Legislative–Executive Relationship
  • The Judicial System
  • Electoral Laws
  • Italy in the International Context
  • Territorial Politics and Government
  • Journals
  • Websites

Political Science Italian Politics and Government
Daniela Giannetti
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0356


As established in the 1948 Constitution, Italy is a parliamentary democracy in which in order to take office governments must be supported by a majority of voting members of parliament (MPs), separately both in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate, through a formal investiture vote. Both branches of Parliament are elected on a popular basis and have exactly the same prerogatives in the lawmaking process (symmetric bicameralism). The head of state is indirectly elected for a seven-year term. Although the constitutional framework established at the end of World War II remains substantially unchanged, common usage distinguishes two phases—called respectively First and Second Republic—to indicate the rupture marked by those changes in the electoral rules and the party system that occurred in the early 1990s. Throughout the phase known as First Republic (1948–1992), an open-list proportional PR system with large electoral constituencies underpinned a party system centered upon the Christian Democratic Party (DC) with “bilateral” opposition parties on the left (the Communist Party/PCI) and on the right (the postfascist Movimento Sociale Italiano/MSI). Such a political landscape was dramatically reshaped in early 1990s after a wave of judicial prosecutions against the political elites. From 1994 to 2013, following the introduction of a majoritarian mixed-member electoral system, the Italian party system was characterized by a bipolar pattern of party competition and alternating coalition governments on the center-right and the center-left of the political spectrum. Electoral rules were changed both in 2005 and in 2017, restoring a predominantly proportional system. The 2013 elections marked a turning point in Italian politics, witnessing the astonishing success of the Five Star Movement (M5S), a newcomer populist party which gained one-fourth of the popular vote. In the 2018 elections the challenger M5S confirmed its success becoming the largest parliamentary party and dictating the process of government formation.

General Overviews and Textbooks

A general overview of Italian politics and society can be found in Jones and Pasquino 2015. Newell 2021 is an updated account about Italian politics from the postwar period to the present day. Bull and Pasquino 2019 focuses on Italian politics and society after the Eurozone crisis. Natale and Newell 2022 is a textbook including an introduction to Italian political history from 1943 onwards; a description of the key political institutions, the party system, interest groups, and social movements; an examination of the role of the press; and a focus on Italian foreign policy.

  • Bull, Martin, and Gianfranco Pasquino. Italy Transformed: Politics, Society and Institutions at the End of the Great Recession. London: Routledge, 2019.

    Covers the period after the 2008 economic crisis by looking at political and social change.

  • Jones, Erik, and Gianfranco Pasquino, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Italian Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

    A collection of more than fifty chapters on various key aspects of Italian politics and society, including political institutions, political culture, and party families.

  • Natale, Paolo, and James L. Newell. Contemporary Italian Politics. London: Routledge, 2022.

    Includes an introduction to Italian political history from 1943 to the present day, a description of core political institutions and the party system, interest groups and social movements, selected topics such as corruption, and foreign policy toward the EU and the United States.

  • Newell, James L. Italy’s Contemporary Politics. London: Routledge, 2021.

    Provides an updated narrative of the most important political, economic, and social changes that marked Italian postwar history, society, and politics.

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