Democratic Erosion in Italy with the 2022 elections
For most of the modern era the Italian Republic has been an incredibly unstable democracy since its creation after the second World War. For a country with a long monarchical tradition it was surprising when in a 1946 referendum the Italian people voted to oust King Umberto II and transform the Kingdom of Italy into a republic. The monarchy has lost the support of the Italian people after they supported and were allies of Benito Mussolini and his blackshirts (Powell, 2022). This alongside a proportional representation based electoral system created a tumultuous democracy. The new status of a unified republican Italy and an ideologically fragmented party system led to the precarious nature of Italian democracy alongside a highly elite concentrated government. This instability was made incredibly apparent in the 2022 Italian general elections where a radical right wing populist Giorgia Meloni and her Fratelli d’Italia party won a legislative majority; making this the first time a radical right wing figure became prime minister in Italy since Mussolini and creating many concerns for the future of italian democracy.
The true instability of Italian politics is truly understood when one looks at the statistics. Since the creation of the Italian republic in 1946 there have been 69 different governments in Parliament with the average life being 13 months (The Economist explains, 2021). Furthermore, cold war era politics to repress the powerful communist party, several domestic crises, and the use of a proportional representation system created a multiparty state dependent on large multi party coalitions in order to govern effectively which are notoriously unstable. For example, the cause of the 2022 Italian general election was the collapse of Mario Draghi’s grand coalition of the right wing Lega Nord, Forza Italia, 5 star movement, and the centrist democratic party of Italy. These types of coalitions are common in the Italian parliament because it is incredibly difficult for one party to obtain a legislative majority due to geographic differences in constituent opinions and Italy’s proportional electoral system that favors multiple political parties thus decreasing the chance for single party majority governments (Pasquino, 2019).
Draghi’s coalition largely collapsed due to differing opinions on handling the Covid-19 crisis with the right wing 5 star movement refusing the economic aid he wished to give to the citizens and withdrew from the unity coalition triggering its demise. On July 21, 2022 Draghi dissolved the Italian parliament and called for a new election which eventually culminated in the victory of Giorgia Meloni and her Fratelli d’Italia party (Britannica,2022).
Meloni’s victory in October of 2022 was largely unexpected since there were several other long standing right wing parties that scholars assumed would succeed in the election. However, due to the leaders of the other parties initial support of Draghi’s grand coalition Meloni remained the only viable candidate for opposition and the other right wing parties like the Lega Nord and Forza Italia rallied around her. Furthermore, the left leaning parties failed to form anytype of a counter coalition with their refusal to cooperate with the 5 star movement resulting in a widespread victory for Meloni and her allies.
So far in the early days of her term she has seemed to soften her incredibly Euro-skeptic and conservative views in a bid to appease her opposition but only time will tell how her governance will play out and how secure Italy’s democracy is from potential authoritarian erosion.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Mario Draghi”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 22 Oct. 2022, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mario-Draghi. Accessed 27 November 2022.
Pasquino, Gianfranco. Italian Democracy How It Works. Routledge, 2019.
Powell, J. M. , Foot, . John , Signoretta, . Paola E. , Lovett, . Clara M. , Nangeroni, . Giuseppe , Clark, . Martin , Wickham, . Christopher John , Marino, . John A. , Berengo, . Marino , King, . Russell L. , Palma, . Giuseppe Di , Palma, . Giuseppe Di , Larner, . John and Knights, . Melanie F. (2022, November 16). Italy. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Italy