Italy Modern History

By | January 31, 2023

Italy is a country located in Southern Europe. With the capital city of Rome, Italy has a population of 60,461,837 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. After World War II ended, King Viktor Emanuel III abdicated in 1946 in favor of his son Umberto II. After a referendum given to the supporters of the republic’s majority, the king left Italy, which was proclaimed republic in June 1946.

Italy chose early to participate in Western cooperation and joined the Defense Alliance NATO and the Council of Europe in 1949.

The first government of the Republic was led by Alcide de Gasperi of the Christian Democratic Party (DC). The government also included the Communist Party (PCI). Gaspari came to play a prominent role in the ongoing work to strengthen cooperation in Western Europe, which led to the formation of the Coal and Steel Community in 1952. This first developed into the EC and then to the EU.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Italy. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

With the help of US support, the Marshall Aid, the Italian post-war economy could be built and the foundation laid for a record annual growth of over eight percent in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Italian industrial production rose rapidly during this period. However, it was mainly northern Italy that was industrialized, while the southern parts of the country remained disadvantageous despite various support measures. Large parts of the population therefore applied to the country’s northern and central parts or abroad. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Italy.

During the 1970s, the economy was characterized by high unemployment, high inflation and low growth, partly as a result of the oil crisis of 1973. The industry faced serious problems and the state took over broad industrial sectors, such as in the 1930s.

From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, terrorist groups, both right-wing and left-wing extremist, carried out attacks on the government and government. The violent era went by the name “Bly√•ren” (Anni di piombo). The violence reached its peak in 1978, when the Christian Democrats’ leader and former Prime Minister Aldo Moro was kidnapped and murdered by the Marxist Red Brigades.

Christian Democratic Domination

Throughout the postwar period until the early 1990s, Christian Democrats dominated political life in Italy. The party formed the focal point of each of Italy’s many governments after the Second World War. Nothing important at national level could be achieved without the party taking part.

Until the early 1960s, the position of the Christian Democrats was strongest. The party retained government power in coalition with other parties. Thereafter, the influence of the Christian Democrats weakened somewhat, but they continued to govern the short-lived coalition governments that succeeded. In the 1976 election, the Communist Party received almost as many votes as the Christian Democrats, which caused concern in some circles.

In 1981, a secret order society (Masonic Lodge) P2 (Propaganda Due) was revealed with prominent politicians and economists as members. P2 had ties to criminal forces and had as a plan to stop the communists and take over power if the left had too much to say.

In 1981, Italy received for the first time a non-Christian Democratic Prime Minister, Giovanni Spadolini from the Liberal Republican Party, who led a five-party coalition.

After the 1983 election Bettino Craxi from the Socialist Party (PSI) took over as head of government. His coalition lasted until 1986 and thus became the longest-lasting in Italy since the Second World War. During the rest of the 1980s, short-term coalition governments followed.

The economy was much more stable than politics. Throughout the 1980s, Italy enjoyed steady economic growth of three to four percent annually and industrial production steadily increasing.

The Communist Party’s support began to decline, and the fall of communism in Eastern Europe from 1989 to 1991 helped the party – which, much earlier, to some extent distanced itself from Moscow – adopted a social-democratic orientation. In 1991, the Communist Party changed its name to the Democratic Left Party. A minority broke out and formed the more Orthodox Party of Reconstructed Communism (PRC).

The 1992 parliamentary election was a defeat for both the Christian Democrats and the Democratic Left Party. The Socialist Party led by Giulio Amato formed government with the support mainly of Christian Democrats, and economic austerity was followed by major union protests.

The politicians and the mafia

In 1992, a national scandal developed that shook Italy for years under the designation mani pulite (clean hands). Hundreds of politicians, mostly Christian Democrats and socialists, were accused of corruption, including taking bribes in exchange for large public construction contracts. Many well-known business leaders were arrested for participation. Among the accused were Socialist leader Bettino Craxi and Christian Democrat Giulio Andreotti, who has been prime minister seven times.

Following the 1993 referendums, the constitution was amended to prevent similar scandals in the future. The government was replaced by an expedition minister led by former Governor of the Bank Carlo Ciampi. Craxi and Andreotti were tried, and because of the scandals, both the Christian Democratic Party and the Socialist Party were dissolved.

Alongside the corruption scandals, the fight against the mafia, which has grown into a multinational multibillion movement, intensified mainly through drug trafficking. In 1986, 350 mafia members had been convicted of testimony from a defender. When the prosecutors who led the investigations, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, were murdered in 1992, the efforts were sharpened. Several mafia bosses were arrested.

Former Prime Minister Andreotti was indicted in 1993 for conspiring with the mafia and for ordering the murder of a journalist who would reveal the mafia contacts. Andreotti was acquitted, then sentenced to 24 years in prison and acquitted again (2003) for lack of evidence.

Berlusconi gains power

Before the 1994 parliamentary elections, the financier Silvio Berlusconi had launched a new right-wing party, Forza Italia (“Hello Italy”). Together with the National Alliance – heirs to Italy’s neo-fascist party – and the Northern Italian movement Federation Nord (Lega Nord), Berlusconi formed a Valallian called the Freedom Alliance.

Left and center parties also formed alliances due to new electoral laws (see Political system).

After all the scandals that stained the political establishment, Berlusconi radiated success and change. Heja Italy won the election and formed a coalition government, which, however, was characterized by internal strife.

In the meantime, the trials and investigations of the old political establishment within the large corruption investigation Mani pulite continued. Bettino Craxi, who moved to Tunisia, was sentenced in his absence for various crimes to a total of 26 years in prison.

Berlusconi’s plans for reforms in the expensive pension system led to protests and demonstrations. He was also questioned because of bribery charges and as a major owner of media companies. After less than a year, the government of Berlusconi fell.

The 1996 election was won by the center-left parties’ new alliance Olive Tree. New head of government became economics professor and former Christian Democrat Romano Prodi, but his government fell after a year due to internal disagreement on tax increases and budgetary tightening.

The leader of the Left Democrats (formerly the Democratic Left Party) Massimo D’Alema became new prime minister and thus the country’s first head of government with a background in the Communist Party. D’Alema resigned soon, but the Olive Tree Alliance retained the government for a full term without re-election, something new in Italy.

Berlusconi back in 2001

The 2001 parliamentary election was a clear victory for Silvio Berlusconi’s right alliance, now called the House of Liberty. He again formed government with Forza Italia, the National Alliance and Lega Nord and the Center Party Center Union (UDC).

The coalition became the most persistent since World War II, despite the fact that Berlusconi could not fulfill the election promises of major tax cuts and new jobs. His attempts to liberalize the labor market were met by protests, his media ownership was questioned and proposals for amended media rules triggered a conflict with state broadcaster RAI. At the same time, Berlusconi fought against the judiciary, which investigated him for tax, bribery and other fraud.

The government was also weakened by internal fighting, when Lega Nord demanded more autonomy for northern Italy. Economic stagnation and Berlusconi’s support for the US war in Iraq increased public dissatisfaction. After a setback in the regional and local elections in 2005, Berlusconi resigned but returned to power at the forefront of a new coalition.

Prodi wins 2006

The 2006 election was very even. Romano Prodi’s new center-left alliance, the Union, received 49.8 percent of the votes for the Chamber of Deputies against 49.7 for the Government Alliance Freedom House. Thanks to a new electoral system (see Political system), the left still got a clear overweight mandate in Parliament’s House of Commons, but only a few seats in the Senate.

Prodi formed a government with ministers from nine parties, mainly from the Left Democrats and another left-wing party, La Margherita, but also two Communist parties. It became difficult to keep the coalition together, which disagreed, not least about economic policy.

In order to strengthen the political center-left, Prodi and other Union leaders in 2007 formed a joint party, the Democratic Party in which both the Left Democrats and La Margherita formed. However, Prodi lost his weak majority in the Senate and resigned in 2008.

Berlusconi is coming again

The new election in April 2008 seemed to change the political landscape after years of political chaos and fragmentation. Only six parties or alliances plus a couple of regional parties took place in both chambers of Parliament; before the election there were 26. For the first time since World War II, the Communists ended up outside Parliament.

The election was won by Berlusconi’s new right-wing Alliance People of Liberty in collaboration with Lega Nord and a Sicilian party. A coalition between the people of Liberty and Lega Nord took office.

Berlusconi’s third term as prime minister led to growing conflict in society and ended in political and financial crisis. Berlusconi was charged with tax fraud, fraudulent accounting and multiple cases of bribery. To avoid being brought to justice, he passed a law on protection against prosecution for, among others, the head of government and the president. The Constitutional Court later repealed the law. Anger in the community grew as the limitation period for crime was lowered to benefit Berlusconi, and as his outbursts of young girls became a media outlet.

Measures against immigration

Berlusconi had made a choice to fight crime and associated it with increased illegal immigration. The government passed a “security package”, which was aimed, among other things, at Roma and others without a residence permit. In addition, the penalty for illegal immigration was sharpened.

The measures received harsh criticism from several directions. At the same time, the country’s economic problems accelerated in the wake of the international financial crisis. A savings plan was adopted to reduce the growing budget deficit, which led to giant protests and partial riots with demands for Berlusconi’s departure.

The economic crisis worsened despite several new savings packages. The country’s problems were considered to be mainly political, and the demands for a change of power grew. Europe’s confidence in the Italian government’s ability declined. The IMF and the EU demanded quarterly monitoring of Italy’s budgetary measures, stock markets fell and interest rates on Italian government bonds hit record levels in November.

As the situation worsened, Berlusconi began to lose support in Parliament. Hoping to win time to gather their forces, Berlusconi promised to step down after Parliament adopted the savings and reforms that the Eurogroup called for. However, President Napolitano immediately addressed him and gave the government mission to the economist and former EU Commissioner Mario Monti, who in November 2011 formed an expert government with the task of regaining Europe’s confidence in Italy’s economy.

Monti at the helm

The Monti government immediately announced new budget austerity measures and measures against political benefits, tax fraud and corruption. Proposals were submitted regarding tax increases, increased retirement age and deregulation. A labor market reform was launched that would create new jobs for young people and women, but at the same time make it easier to dismiss employees.

The two major parties, Berlusconi’s People of Liberty and the Democratic Party, supported Monti in Parliament despite opposing ideological principles against several of the government’s reforms. The decontamination of the economy was seen as a necessary evil, and the parties preferred that an expert government be affected by the worst popular criticism.

Europe’s financial markets reacted positively to Monti’s reforms, but at home the new government was met with nationwide protests. In the May 2012 local elections, the left and protest parties were successful. Many protest voices went to the blogger and comedian Beppe Grillo’s new party Five Star Movement.

Battle for the 2013 elections

The support for the disputed austerity led to internal conflicts in both major parties before the parliamentary elections in February 2013. Deeply, there was also deep conflict within Berlusconi. Strong forces worked for a new and younger leadership, while investigations showed that the party would get more votes with a 77-year-old Berlusconi in the lead.

The election resulted in an unclear position in Parliament. The Democratic Party’s left-wing Alliance Italy won the joint best by barely a marginal election to the House of Commons. The alliance gained 29.5 percent while Berlusconi’s center-right alliance won 29.1 percent. Monti’s Middle Alliance, Monti’s agenda for Italy, received only one tenth of a vote.

The five-star movement became the largest single party in terms of voting. The party got 25.6 percent of the vote, against 25.4 for the Democratic party, but the Democratic party got the most mandate when the election system was designed so that the winning alliance automatically got a majority of the mandate in the lower house. In the Senate, none of the alliances succeeded in winning a majority, giving the Five Star Movement the role of tongue on the scale.

The election result meant that no bloc could form a government with control over both chambers of parliament.

After a series of tours, a historically broad coalition government was formed at the end of April with both the left and the right: the Democratic Party, the People of Liberty and Mario Monti’s middle alliance. New head of government became Enrico Letta of the Democratic Party. Beppe Grillo’s protest party The five-star movement, which refused to cooperate with the other parties, was now placed without influence.

Judgments against Berlusconi

The formation of the unity government brought Berlusconi back to the main stage of politics and, with Berlusconi, the legal processes also returned. In June 2013, Berlusconi was convicted of paying for sex with an underage Moroccan girl and also abusing her position as head of government by influencing the police to release her after she was arrested for mockery. However, Berlusconi appealed and was eventually acquitted by the Supreme Court.

In another case, Berlusconi was really sentenced. In August 2013, the Supreme Court upheld a previous sentence of four years in prison against Berlusconi for tax offenses. The prison sentence was shortened and would be converted into house arrest or community service. The ruling also included a ban on holding public office, but the Supreme Court ruled that it would be investigated further.

After the final ruling in the tax case, the Democratic Party demanded that Berlusconi leave his seat in the Senate, but he refused. The Berlusconi party senators declared in September that they would resign if Berlusconi was voted out of parliament and Berlusconis withdrew his five ministers from the government. Italy was now facing political chaos again, while the economy continued to decline and government debt grew.

Prime Minister Letta decided to try to take back the initiative by holding a vote of confidence in Parliament. Ahead of the September vote, around twenty members of Berlusconi’s party rebelled and declared that they would support the government. Faced with the threat that his party would burst, Berlusconi himself fell ill at the last minute and voted for the government.

Cracked alliance

But the people of Freedom nevertheless burst when Berlusconi a few months later re-launched their old party Heja Italy. One of Berlusconi’s close allies, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, chose to go his own way with his supporters and formed a new party, the New Center Right. Heja Italy went into opposition, while the New Center Right supported the Latvian government, which thus gained a clear majority.

In November 2013, the Senate voted to exclude Berlusconi from the House because he was convicted of tax offenses (see above). As a result, Berlusconi also lost his parliamentary immunity. In May 2014, Berlusconi started her community service at a dementia nursing home.

Letta went strong from the power measurement with Berlusconi but the problems were not over. The economy continued to shrink in 2013 and the government faced increasingly harsh criticism for failing to push through the necessary economic and political reforms. Confidence in Letta also fell within the Democratic Party and in early 2014, Letta was outsmarted by the newly appointed party leader Matteo Renzi, who has built up his career as mayor of Florence. In February, Renzi became head of government for a center-left coalition that promised a wide range of reforms. The coalition included, among others, the New Center Right formed by defectors from the former head of government and the media magnate Silvio Berlusconi’s right alliance.

Renzi loses support

When Renzi took power, he had two goals above others: to get growth going and to reform the political system so that it would be easier to form stable governments.

At the time of power, the economic situation continued to be poor, with shrinking gross domestic product and record high unemployment. The new government almost immediately presented an economic stimulus package and later introduced a new labor market law, which among other things meant that job security was relaxed so that it became easier for employers to dismiss staff. The new law triggered widespread protests across the country.

The disputed Labor Market Act, combined with continued weak economic development, was one of the reasons why the government began to lose support in 2015, while the opposition movement, the Five Star Movement, was able to restore its credibility following the backlash of the 2013 election. one night was forced to appoint over 160 completely inexperienced MEPs.

Political reforms

The government also took on the task of reforming the electoral law that has been in force since 2006 but which was sentenced by the Constitutional Court after the 2013 election (see Political system). A new electoral law was passed with a “threshold” inserted for the percentage of votes a party needed to be awarded a bonus mandate, but the law was replayed when Renzi failed to push through a reform of the constitution to change the Senate’s duties and influence. The plan was to reduce the role of the Senate in legislation so that future governments would only need to control the House of Commons to get their bills passed, which would make it easier to govern. However, the proposal’s critics believed that Renzi’s intention was to strengthen his own power.

Despite some opposition from some senators, the proposal was approved by Parliament, but it was rejected in a referendum in early December 2016. The opposition was gathered on the no-side, which made the vote appear more like a yes or no to the government than to the proposal itself..

For Renzi, who put his political future at risk through the proposal, the outcome became a death blow. Renzi had promised to step down if he did not get through his reform. When the result was clear, he filed his resignation application. The opposition immediately demanded a new election. In mid-December, an expedition government with Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni took office as new prime minister, pending parliamentary elections. First, however, the electoral system needed to be changed so that it became uniform for both parliament’s chambers (see Political system).

Only in October 2017 did the Gentiloni government succeed in pushing a vote in parliament through repeated vote of confidence. The law means that the mandate in the parliament’s chambers is distributed on the basis of a mixture of majority elections and proportional system, which favors parties forming coalitions. The populist Five-Star Movement, which unwillingly wanted to cooperate with other parties and who was highest in opinion polls, considered itself discriminated against by the new law.

A few months after the election law was passed, the government decided that elections to Parliament would be held on March 4, 2018.

Italy Modern History