Italy after the fall of the Monarchy (1946) to the present day.
The happy face of democracy.
By the end of World War II
, Italy was in ruins: the war reduced most factories to rubble, roads, railways were unusable and millions of people were left without a home. The last years of war saw Italians from both sides, Fascists and members of the Italian Resistance
, fighting each other. There was also bitter resentment against the King and the Monarchy, fueled by Victor Emmanuel's support of Fascism and the Royal Family's hasty escape from Rome during the German occupation of Italy. The Communist party, meanwhile, gained consensus and another civil war seemed inevitable.
The King - hoping to restore the Royal Family's reputation - abdicated in favour his eldest son, prince Umberto, who was crowned on 9 May 1946
as Umberto II
and remained King of Italy for just over a month - which is why he was called il Re di Maggio
("the King of May"). During his incredibly short reign, he had to defuse the various sources of tension within the country which could have led to another unnecessary bloodbath; at that time, some Sicilian factions were pushing for independence (thus threatening the unity and the stability of the whole nation), while the Yugoslavians wanted to annex much of North-Eastern Italy. However, he - showing the good sense his father lacked - promptly granted Sicily fiscal and political autonomy, making the indepentist campaigners run out of steam; sent fresh troops to the border and called for a referendum which would hopefully strengthen his position.
On June 2
, 1946, the first free referendum since 1921 took place and that was also the first time Italian women were allowed to vote. Electoral results showed a nation almost split in two, with Northern Italians voting en masse
for the Republic while Central and Southern Italians were willing to keep the Monarchy; there were also widespread accusations that the anti-monarchists rigged the result, but Italy eventually became a Republic. A couple of years later, this date became the Italian national holiday.
Enrico de Nicola
was elected first President
of Italy, while the new Constitution
was promulgated on 22 December, 1947 and came into force the next year; all the male members of the House of Savoy (including the now-ex King) were banished from Italy and exiled to Portugal (for your information, the ban was eventually lifted in 2002).
The Peace Treaty of 1947
Italy had already signed an Armistice with the Allies in 1943, which would later lay the foundation for the Peace Treaty. In brief - Italy was, by virtue of the Treaty, obliged to disband a good part of the Navy (most of its vessels were ceded to the Allied powers) note
and the country was not allowed to deploy the Army (which was reduced in size) outside its borders; minorities had their status recognised. Finally, Italy had to pay hefty economic reparations and was forced to relinquish all its overseas possessions along with parts of its North-Eastern territory, as following:
- Libya became independent;
- Italian Somaliland became a U.N. Trust Territory which was managed by Italy until 1960, when it was merged with the British Somaliland and granted independence;
- Ethiopia had already been liberated by the British in 1942;
- Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia;
- The Italian Concession in Tianjin was handed over to the Republic of China;
- The Dodecanese was ceded to Greece;
- The regions of Istria and Dalmatia were ceded to Yugoslavia;
- The city of Trieste was declared "free territory".
The First Republic: Italy from 1947 to 1992
Eventually, the Cold War partly loosened some of the treaty's provisions and Italy greatly benefited from the European Recovery Program
(better known as the Marshall Plan); between 1948 and 1951 over 1.204.000 $ were spent in food aids, factories and other important public works. For the following 30 years, the country would be dominated by the centre-right, Vatican-and-US-backed Christian Democracy
(with the Communist Party being the largest opposition party), which led to Italy's entry into the NATO
; from the late 40s to The Fifties
, Italy experienced the first signs of economic growth.
, the city of Trieste - after a series of lenghty negotiations involving the United States, Britain and Yugoslavia - was finally reunited
with Italy; television
was introduced and the national broadcasting company, RAI
, created. However, Italy had all the stability of a Banana Republic
, the premiership changed hands more than 40 times in 50 years and endured short-lived governments (average shelf life: around 11 months; shortest: 21 daysnote
). The main reason for this was that the important parties ended up playing a game of dividing important posts in government and important state conglomerates between themselves on purely strategic considerations as opposed to, say, competence - a practice called, for the cabinet, Manuale Cencelli
from a popular guest manual of the 1950s; state conglomerates were subject to lottizzazione
, that is, were split between parties. These methods led to the situation of party chairmen actually being more powerful than Presidents or Prime Ministers, a fact illustrated by the way Prime Minister Mario Scelba was forced to resign in 1955 by his inner party rivals instead of parliamentary reasons.
The Other Wiki's list of PMs illustrates this game of musical chairs rather well
, and Italian politicians were generally engaging in Strawman Political
: the constant reshuffles were meant to preserve the Balance of Power
and accomodate their "clients" and, above all, the United States. The prevalence of nepotism and corruption did not bring any positive contributions to Italy's reputation
, and within the country itself it fostered a climate of isolation between the political élite and Italian citizens, whose increasing dissatisfaction and revulsion with the system fueled widespread political apathy. This period provided such shining examples of public service
as Giovanni Leone, who was forced to resign as President in 1978 after being caught in the Lockheed bribery scandal
, Antonio Segni, who was accused of having participated in planning a coup d'état nicknamed "Piano Solo"
to suppress the popularity of left-wing parties, and the government of Arnaldo Forlani, which raised $40 billion in reconstruction funds after the Irpinia earthquake
but succeeded in only spending $9.6 billion of it on actual reconstruction, pissing the rest away on bribes, the Camorra, and enriching their supporters in the region.
One of the arguable side effects of the corrupt establishment was that the Italian Communist Party
(PCI) became the most popular
and largest Communist party in Europe (beating even the French Communist Party in its heyday, when they were still the largest left-wing party in France), earning a reputation for being Reasonable Authority Figures
and competent administrators at the regional level who cared more about improving public services and taking measures to improve people's livelihoods than enriching themselves from bribes. However, the PCI were never "allowed" to seriously challenge the system and be more than the opposition since the Cold War
was on (the USA poured what we could call "a lot"
of funds into aiding Christian Democracy during the infamously hysterical, Scare Campaign
-dominated 1948 election), coming closest to doing so in the 1976 election (which fueled hopes of a "historic compromise" that would lead to a DC-PCI coalition government), leading to a system some analysts have called "imperfect bipoliarism" since it didn't really allow for a proper variation in office between different parties: the DC had a stronghold as the largest party in Italy and its coalitions with other parties (the Italian Socialist Party, Italian Democratic Socialist Party, Italian Republican Party and Italian Liberal Party) were more often than not cosmetic instead of substantial, while the PCI's support was usually restricted to the "Red Quadrilateral" regions of Emilia-Romagna, Umbria, Tuscany and Marche. The resulting lack of accountability served to entrench further the corrupt, self-serving political system that the country became infamous for in the period.
On 25 March 1957
Italy, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and West Germany signed the Treaty of Rome
which established the European Economic Community
- the ancestor of The European Union
From the late 50s to the mid-60s, Italy enjoyed a period of unprecedented economic growth
, despite surreally widespread levels of corruption and state inefficiency - the so-called Italian Miracle
. The country's GDP doubled
, while industrial production skyrocketed; new highways, dams, power plants, schools and hospitals were built; Italian films and pop music became well known. Cars such as the FIAT 500, along with Vespas, became symbols of that period of unprecedented prosperity.
, too, became fashionable: Olivetti, FIAT, Piaggio, Ferrari, Lancia, Alfa Romeo... not to mention the several designer clothes and furniture that were exported all over the world. The factories of Northern Italy experienced a dramatic shortage of manpower and millions of workers from Southern Italy emigrated there in search of a better life - unemployment was virtually non-existent - and social services were extended while a raft of measures were adopted to improve Italians' livelihoods. Italy seemed prosperous as never before: a hitherto poor, agricultural country became the fifth most industrialised nation in the world.
But, would the happy days last long? The answer is NO.
1968 and the "Years of Lead"
all came to an end. In that year, the student were rioting in every major Italian city and the so-called autunno caldo
("Hot Autumn", a series of massive strikes), took place. As if that wasn't enough, a long period of tension and terrorism dubbed "The Years of Lead"
broke out after the bombing of piazza Fontana
, in Milan (1969
), and culminated with the kidnapping and murder
of the Italian PM Aldo Moro (1978
) at the hands of a communist terrorist organisation known as the Brigate Rosse
("Red Brigades"). The assassination ended the "historic compromise", though the PCI, led by Enrico Berlinguer, condemned the Red Brigades and adopted a policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorist groups (the "Front of Firmness").
Meanwhile, trade unions became increasingly stronger and the Communist Party's popularity further increased when, under Berlinguer, they broke off from the Soviet Union and criticised its invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan and the crackdown on Solidarity in Poland, accepting Italy's membership of NATO and moving towards a Eurocommunist stance (which netted them their best election result in 1976, coming only four percentage points behind the DC). In 1975
, tensions between Italy and Yugoslavia were defused by the Treaty of Osimo
, which officially defined the borders between the two countries: the treaty, however, caused an uproar within the Italian public opinion which considered the (Italian) signatories as traitors.
two important referenda
were held - one on divorce and another on abortion - and despite the pressure from the Catholic Church, Italian voters chose to retain these two rights.
All in all, the Cold War-era strategy of tension
with its assorted intrigues (Operation Gladio and the Propaganda Due lodge) and links to the "years of lead", the government's failure to alleviate the North-South divide (most of the money sank thanks to corruption, and incompetent planning led to factories being plonked down in less than optimal places), a string of governments so incompetent or irresponsible with economics that Italy ran a gigantic budget deficit all throughout the Cold War accumulating an enormous amount of public debt and the power of the Mafia in Southern Italy, just for starters, made the First Republic looking like a very resilient Crapsaccharine World
, where Italians enjoyed a high standard of living despite all the aforementioned pervasive problems. The collapsing value of the lira
as far back as 1957 led the government to pass various laws mandating the indexation of wages to inflation, which was extended in 1975 to create the "moving staircase" system whereby workers received an additional flat fee to automatically compensate them for three months' of price increases and quarterly wage revisions, making wages rise faster than prices. Combined with Italy's extremely generous welfare provisions, this meant that Italian workers were among the best paid, most protected, and best treated in Europe; the costliness of this system and state inefficiency later forced Italy to adopt harsh austerity measures to cope with the resulting rise in public debt.
Have you washed your hands? Italy from 1992 to 2013: the Second Republic
After the Cold War ended (and thus the United States' interest in keeping left-wingers out of power vanished), the nepotism- and corruption-laden political system, dubbed Tangentopoli
(Italian for "Bribeville") was exposed by the ''Clean Hands''
investigations of 1992
. These involved a big part of the Senate and House and caused the collapse of the old dominant parties
except the Italian Republican Party (the only party that survived and kept its name to this day) and the Communists, who changed their name to the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS) for other reasons (chiefly the fact that "Communism" had become passé
, though this wasn't as apparent to the minority of members who instead created the considerably less popular Communist Refoundation Party, which in turn spawned the splinter Party of Italian Communists
), the emergence of new parties in their stead, the adoption of a mixed member proportional representation electoral system after the 1993 referendum, and generally had such a large impact that the period afterwards is called the "Second Republic".
was also very active during this period, routinely threatening the safety of the country. When magistrates began a maxi-investigation that led to over 400 convictions in 1987, the (Sicilian) Mafia was certainly not happy about it; between 1992 and 1993 a series of bombings and the murder of two Sicilian magistrates, Giacomo Falcone and Paolo Borsellino
prompted the Italian authorities to actively fight the Mafia, often with very good results.
, the TV magnate Silvio Berlusconi
(richest man in Italy and proud owner of three national TV channels as well as the AC Milan football club) won that year's general election and became PM for the first time, in an uneasy simultaneous coalition with the separatist Northern League
and the nationalist, neo-fascist National Alliance. His government, predictably, only lasted nine months and was succeeded by the technocratic Lamberto Dini
in 1995 (for fifteen months) and then by left-winger Romano Prodi
in 1996, who adopted fiscal policies that successfully allowed Italy join the Euro
in 1999. He wasn't actually in office when this happened though, as he was starscreamed
by his five-party coalition government
when the Communist Refoundation Party withdrew support, and was replaced by Massimo D'Alema
in 1998, who became the first former Communist to be the Prime Minister of a NATO country (he was in office during Italy's participation in the NATO bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo War) and was, in turn
, thrown out in 2000 in favour of former Prime Minister Giuliano Amato
, a Long Runner
who had previously been Prime Minister in 1992-1993 during the Clean Hands investigations. Moral of the story? In Italian politics, the more parties are involved in a coalition, the shorter the length of a Prime Minister's term.
Berlusconi was reelected in 2001 along with the Northern League
and became the longest-serving post-war Prime Minister by making it through a five-year term without being backstabbed by his coalition, but was defeated fairly narrowly in the 2006 elections and replaced, again, by Romano Prodi. Prodi proceeded to ignore the abovementioned moral and form an eight
-party coalition government, which predictably imploded quickly. In 2008, Berlusconi became Prime Minister again despite numerous controversies and gaffes, which leads one to wonder why (and how the hell) it happened; In 2011 he referred to Italy as "this shitty country" and people were not happy (even moreso than usual). He resigned on November 14, 2011
in favour of independent Mario Monti
, who chaired a transitional government tasked with implementing urgently-needed reforms to stave off a debt crisis. Then, he announced that he would run in the new elections after Monti's government collapsed
due to a vote of no confidence on December 21, 2012
. Despite the short-lived governments and Monti's footnote to history, the Second Republic was characterised by an alternance at power of the two main parties (Berlusconi's "Forza Italia" - which was later renamed the "People of Liberty" - and the various left-wing coalitions, which were merged in 2008 into the [Italian] "Democratic Party"), making it automatically an improvement over the First Republic.
A Third Republic?
The elections of 2013 ended with a clusterfuck, as the centre-left coalition won a majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies but nobody won an outright majority in the Senate, making the formation of a government nearly impossible; the Five Star Movement
asserted itself while the two traditional parties (PD
) lost thousands of votes; the PDL itself, following the conviction of Silvio Berlusconi (who was then kicked out of Parliament), was dissolved and another party - the "new" Forza Italia
- took its place. Mr. B's ex number two (Angelino Alfano) broke up with his master and founded the Nuovo Centrodestra
. The Northern League nearly collapsed after a series of scandals involving its founder, his quasi-illiterate son and a fake PhD
. The clusterfuck election also led to the Parliament failing to vote in a new President, so Giorgio Napolitano, who had just served a seven-year term, offered himself as a candidate again and was reelected overwhelmingly. Enrico Letta
(PD) was appointed PM on 28 April 2013 but resigned the following year.
The current Prime Minister is Matteo Renzi
(PD), who was sworn in on 22 February 2014
after the resignation of his predecessor. The current President is Sergio Mattarella
, who was elected by the Parliament on 31 January 2015
after his predecessor Napolitano decided to resign after serving less than two years of his second term. Contrarily to the last time, the election went very smoothly: after many discussions between the parties in the preceding days, during the first three votings - which require a majority of two thirds rather than half plus one - most of the parliamentarians of the majority left a blank ballot, then Mattarella was elected at the fourth voting, and with almost two thirds of the total votes anyway.
Modern Italy can seem quite odd; a land of contrasts. Besides the obvious North-South Divide
, there is also the lack of competitiveness (an aging workforce plus high unemployment) coupled with the fame and high value of their brands (Gucci, Ferrari, Prada, etc). Much of this has to do with patterns of uneven development (the North-South divide again), a lack of resources needed for industrialization (outside of hydroelectricity in Central and Northern Italy) and lack of firm direction from the central government.
As a result of this, Italy's economy is, in many ways, an economy of regions. In some sectors, Italy is at or near the forefront, such as tourism, wine (Piedmont, Lazio and the Chianti region), motor industry (Turin, Milan), steel industry (Taranto), shipbuilding (Genoa, Chioggia and Monfalcone), design (Milan), film industry (Rome hosts the Cinecittŕ
studios), services such as banking (Rome and Milan again) and textiles, particularly luxury textiles (Lombardy, which includes Milan...again). In other fields, the combined effect of high labor costs, government corruption, archaic regulations, constantly striking unions, lack of central government investment, and (controversially) an overvalued Euro, Italy is not particularly dynamic.
Modern Italy in fiction
Anime and Manga
- Inspector Montalbano, adapted from the book series.