Italy's constitution came into force in 1948.
It provides that Italy must be a republic with a
parliamentary rule, which is based on the principle that
the government must have support in parliament in order
to govern. The president has relatively great power. All
laws must be approved by the president, who can return
the laws to the elected officials.
The president has relatively great power. In
government formation, the president proposes a candidate
as prime minister and, on the recommendation of him,
also appoints the members of the government. If, after a
government crisis, the parties in Parliament fail to
form a new government, the president can dissolve
parliament and announce new elections. All new laws must
be approved by the President, who can also return laws
to Parliament if they are considered to be in violation
of the Constitution or if formal errors have been
Total population and chart of Italy for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
The President is elected every seven years by an
electoral college made up of members of parliament and
representatives of the country's regions. The president
can be re-elected once.
The members of the legislative parliament are elected
for five years in general elections. Parliament consists
of a lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, with 630
members and an upper house, the Senate, with 315 elected
members. In addition, there are a handful of senators
appointed by the president for life. Twelve of the
members of the lower house and six of the senators are
appointed by Italians abroad. The two chambers operate
independently of each other and all laws must be adopted
by both chambers. In some cases, the government may
introduce laws through decrees.
In the fall of 2019, Parliament decided that the
number of MEPs would be sharply reduced. From the 2023
elections, the Chamber of Deputies will have 400 members
and the Senate 200.
Parliament may request a referendum if it has not
been able to reach a sufficient majority for decisions
on constitutional amendments. A referendum can also be
held to amend or repeal customary laws, if the request
is supported by five regional councils or half a million
The limit for voting is 18 years in the House of
Representatives elections and 25 years in the Senate
Systems in change
Italy has a long tradition of unstable governments,
which was based on the fact that Parliament was usually
divided with many small parties. Several changes to the
electoral system have been implemented to eliminate
this. Until 1993, the voting system was proportional,
that is, the votes were distributed among the parties
according to their share of the votes at national level.
After a referendum, majority voting was introduced to
three-quarters of the seats in both chambers, which
meant that voters in each constituency had to cast their
vote on one person. Whoever got the most votes won a
mandate in parliament.
Prior to the 2006 elections, the proportional system
was reinstated, but with a special rule that would make
it easier to create stronger governments. Under the new
rule, the party or alliance that received the most votes
was guaranteed at least 340 seats in the House. In the
Senate elections, the system was similar. This system
was applied in the 2013 elections, which was won by a
left-wing alliance, which thus received the 340 seats.
But the Constitutional Court declared at the end of
the same year that the current electoral law violated
the Constitution on several points, including that there
was no lower limit on how many voting parts a party /
alliance needed to win to get the 340 bonus mandate. On
the basis of this, Matteo Renzi's left government pushed
through a new electoral law, which meant that a party
(not an alliance) had to win 40 percent of the vote in
the election to the Chamber of Deputies to get the 340
bonus mandates. However, the law was quickly overplayed
when it became clear that the extensive changes in the
Senate that the government planned did not materialize.
In 2014, the government had submitted a legislative
proposal to give the lower house only the legislative
power to avoid the legislative process dragging on in
time, which is further aggravated if the lower house and
upper house are controlled by various political
majorities. The proposal was approved by Parliament in
2016 but was voted down in a referendum later that year,
which provoked a government crisis (seeModern History).
In order for parliamentary elections to be held, a
new common electoral law was needed for both chambers of
Parliament. In October 2017, after lengthy negotiations
and political maneuvering, a new law was passed, which
meant that just over one third of MPs should be elected
by majority and about two thirds proportionally. The
electoral law shall apply to both parliament's chambers.
The bar for seats in Parliament under the proportional
system is 3 percent for one party and 10 percent for
partial alliances. The new electoral system was
considered by analysts to favor the formation of party
coalitions, thus making it easier to form stable
governments. In order to be able to win the majority
elections, parties with similar ideologies will have to
work together in order not to steal votes from one
Italy is divided into 20 regions which have largely
their own responsibility for tax collection and the
right to legislate on most non-national issues. Five
regions, Sicily, Sardinia, Trentino-Alto Adige (South
Tyrol), Val d'Aosta and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, have
historical status with greater autonomy for historical
reasons. Each region is governed by a Giunta (usually a
coalition of two or more parties) which is responsible
to a legislative assembly, the Regional Council, whose
members are elected in direct elections.
The regions are divided into just over a hundred
provinces and major cities, and just under 8,000
municipalities sort. The country's provinces have gained
less political importance since the modern regions were
created, but they are responsible for, for example,
local transport, parts of the environmental protection
and some education.
Reform is ongoing at the provincial level.
Previously, there were 109 provinces. 14 of those
covering large cities are being converted into a new
administrative unit, cittį metropolitane, (approximately
metropolitan area). They will be governed by a mayor
who, with his help, has two newly created bodies, called
city councils and a city conference.
Italy's legal system is based on the French civil law
code, civil code, which has its roots in ancient Roman
law. The system is to a significant extent old-fashioned
and legal processes can last for years. The highest
court for both criminal and civil cases is the Supreme
Court (Corte Suprema di Cassazione). Under this there
are a large number of courts of first and second
instance as well as appellate courts.
An independent constitutional court has the task of
monitoring that the laws that are enacted do not
contravene the constitution. The court also takes a
stand on charges against the country's president. The
highest authority in administrative matters is the
Council of State (Consiglio di Stato).
Italy's legal system differs from those in other
Western countries in that the roles of judges and
prosecutors are not separate - a judge can thus go on to
become prosecutor and vice versa.
Important political parties
Italy's party system was fundamentally changed after
1992 when it was revealed that leading politicians had
been in contact with the mafia in a major corruption
legacy. The two parties that previously dominated
Italy's governments - the Christian Democratic Party and
the Socialist Party - were dissolved because of the
scandals. The Communist Party, which was the largest
opposition party, lost ground and was rebuilt as a
result of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe at
the same time. In the void that arose, a large number of
new parties were born.
Changes to the electoral system made it advantageous
for electoral cooperation in alliances and from 1994 two
major alliances came to dominate - one with left and
middle parties and one with right and middle parties.
Alliances have been reformed a number of times over the
The Social Democratic Party (Partito
Democratico, PD) was founded in 2007 through the merger
of two parties in the large Left Alliance Union
(L'Unione) in power after the elections in
2006. The party formed in 2013 an alliance with some
smaller parties, including the Green Party, Left
Ecology and freedom (Sinistra ecologia e
libertą), the Socialist Italian Socialist Party
(Partito Socialista Italiano) and the Democratic
Center (Centro Democratico), who won the
election that year and gained a majority in the House of
Commons. Since former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi failed
to get support for his reform of the political system in
the 2016 referendum, a group of influential politicians
from PD broke up and formed a new party (Movimento
Democratico e Progressista, MDP) that joined the
parliamentary elections 2018 three middle-left parties
in the Free and Equal Party (Liberi e
Uguali, LeU). PD backed strongly in the 2018 election.
The right has for many years been dominated by the
financier and politician Silvio Berlusconi. In 1994 he
founded the Heja Italia party (Forza
Italia) in the vacuum that arose when the Christian
Democratic Party collapsed. From the beginning, the
party had its political base mainly in the supporters
clubs of the Milan AC football team that Berlusconi long
owned (the party name is taken from the crowd cheering
when the Italian national team plays). Silvio Berlusconi
has been prime minister three times - 1994, 2001-2006
and between 2008 and November 2011, when he was forced
to resign after several scandals (see Modern History).
In 2013, he was convicted of tax offenses. Nevertheless,
the populist center-right party is still strongly linked
to Berlusconi's person.
Heja Italy has been the leading force in the various
right-wing alliances that succeeded each other since
1994. Heja Italy's most important partner has been the
Northern Italian autonomous movement Lega Nord
(Northern League) and the Social Conservative
National Alliance (Alleanza Nazionale).
Federation North emerged in the late 1980s as a
result of criticism in the north against the large
government grants being transferred from northern to
southern Italy. The party wants a federal Italy with
far-reaching regional autonomy, but in recent years the
federal issue has faded. The party is now profiling
itself as EU-critical and anti-immigrant in the hope of
winning right-wing votes across the country and now
calls itself only Lega.
The national alliance emerged in 1995 from the
neo-fascist party Italian social movement
(Movimento Sociale Italiano) under the same
leader, Gianfranco Fini.
Both Heja Italy and the National Alliance were part of
the Berlusconiled alliance, the People of
Liberty (Popolo della Libertį), who won the
election in 2008. The parties dissolved when the
alliance was transformed into a political party of the
same name just a year later. However, Fini and
Berlusconi ended up in conflict and Fini founded a new
party, which was dissolved a few years later.
In 2013, the Right went to elections in an alliance
led by the people of Liberty with Lega, the
Italian brothers (Fratelli d'Italia) and dozens
of small parties. The divide within the people of
Liberty grew after the election and several party
members openly revolted against Berlusconi. In November
2013, the people of Freedom disbanded when Berlusconi
re-launched Heja Italy.
However, before the March 2018 parliamentary
elections, Berlusconi's Heja Italy again formed a
valiant alliance with Italy's brothers and Lega. The
party alliance received the most votes in the 2018
general election, but more voters chose to vote for Lega
than Heja Italy.
New power towards the establishment
Berlusconi lost its leadership role in the opposition
after a few years in the split of the party in 2013 and
because of the scandals and legal processes. Instead,
the protest movement shook the Five Star
movement (Movimento 5 Stelle, M5S), founded in
2009 by comedian and blogger Beppe Grillo, emerged as
the largest opposition group. The five-star movement
does not want to call itself a party and harshly
criticizes the establishment, which is linked to frugal
politics and corruption. The movement advocates a
society without parties where citizens control politics
through regular referendums on the internet. The
five-star movement has in recent years questioned
Italy's membership of the euro and also wanted a more
restrictive immigration policy. The five-star movement
was the individual party that received the most votes in
the elections in March 2018. In May 2018, the five-star
movement agreed with Lega to form a coalition
government. However, the collaboration became stormy and
short-lived. Already in September 2019, the Five Star
Movement formed a new coalition government together with
the Democratic Party (seeCurrent policy).