Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies

By Paul Webb; David Farrell et al. | Go to book overview
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3 Italian Parties

Change and Functionality

Luciano Bardi

The Changing Structure of the Party System

For over forty years Italy was seen as a 'party government' system. The party system was extremely fragmented, consisting of up to ten national parties, at least seven of which could at any time be considered 'relevant': the five parties constituting most governmental coalitions from the early 1960s onwards (the dominant DC, the PSI, and three small secular centrist parties, the PSDI, PRI, and PLI), the largest opposition party, the communist PCI, and the neo-fascist MSI. As a consequence of various factors that found expression in the results of two crucial elections in 1992 and 1994, all of this has abruptly come to an end. Party organizations have literally fallen apart after at least thirty years of successful adaptation to societal and political system changes (Bardi and Morlino 1994). All parties and other electoral competitors have been deeply affected. A number of the traditional parties, including the three largest ones (DC, PCI, PSI) suffered divisions and transformations. 1 None of the thirteen major competitors in the 1994 Chamber of Deputies' race (for the list seats) had run with the same names and symbols in the 1987 election. Although only one of the thirteen lists, Forza Italia, led by Silvio Berlusconi, appeared to be, at least on the surface, completely new, the sheer number of these changes demonstrates the magnitude of the party system's transformation.


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Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies


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