Since 1946, Italy adopted the republican form of government. After the tragedies that befell Italy in World War 2, on June 1946 a referendum took place to decide whether Italy should still be a monarchic State or a republic. Albeit with a small difference of votes, the Italian people chose to invalidate the monarchy and to establish the republic: the Italian Republic was suddenly born. The next step consisted in instituting a Constituent Assembly that would give Italy a new Constitution. During the works of this assembly, in which members of all partisan and anti-fascist political forces were represented (i.e. the Christian-democrats, the communists, the socialists, the liberals, etc.), it was decided to introduce the parliamentary model, similar to the British one. The choice of parliamentarism instead of, say, presidentialism or semi-presidentialism was intuitive: Italy had just come out from twenty years of a fascist regime that had annihilated all parliamentary diversity, centralizing all the power in the hands of the government. Hence, to avoid a similar risk in the future, the founding fathers of the Italian Republic decided to build the system onto the role of Parliament, which could control the government and eventually depose it. The Constitution of republican Italy entered into force on the 1st of January 1948, comprising 139 articles. The Constitution was replacing the previous Albertine Statute, which had governed over the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont and later over the Kingdom of Italy since 1848.
|The former Italian Chief of State with his personal guard of cuirassiers|
According to the Italian Constitution, the Italian Chief of State is the President of the Republic (Presidente della Repubblica). The President remains in office for seven years. The two branches of Parliament, whilst gathering in joint session, elect him. Once elected, the President performs several institutional functions. First, he appoints the Government, which includes the Prime Minister and all the Ministers, who are obliged to undertake an oath of loyalty towards the Constitution in front of him. Secondly, the President dissolves Parliament and calls for new elections in the case that the Government no longer benefits of a parliamentary majority or the legislature has expired. Thirdly, the President issues proper decrees that concern mostly administrative topics or political appointments. Moreover, he is the supreme commander of the armed forces and the President of the Superior Council of the Judiciary. Being an impartial organ, the main institutional role that the President embodies is that of being a warden and guarantor of the Constitution.
The Italian Government consists of the Prime Minister (Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri), the Ministers and the Undersecretaries: together, they form the Council of Ministers (Consiglio dei Ministri). The Chief of the Government is the Prime Minister, who also acts as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, and he is the holder of the executive power. The Prime Minister proposes the Ministers and successively the President of the Republic formally appoints them. Because Italy is a parliamentary republic, it is very important to bear in mind that there is a trusteeship relation between the Government and the Parliament: indeed, the stay in power of the Government depends on the confidence (or non-confidence) vote that Parliament expresses over its decisions. The Government has the right to propose a legislative initiative on the subjects encompassed in its election manifesto.
|The Italian Parliament in joint session|
Moreover, the Government may adopt legislative decrees through the grant of a parliamentary proxy-law and law-decrees: the former serve to regulate very technical and detailed issues and, generally, the latter are used only in cases of urgency.
Regarding the Parliament, it is the holder of the legislative power and indeed approves and amends the legislative norms. The Parliament has two branches or chambers: the Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati) with 630 members and the Senate of the Republic (Senato della Repubblica) with 310 members plus 5 senators for life. The electoral body elects both branches through direct universal suffrage but the electoral constituencies are on a national basis for the Chamber of Deputies and on a regional basis for the Senate. The two chambers have the same powers and characteristics. Unlike what occurs in federal States, there is no representation of Regions or Federated States within the Senate: clearly, this is due to the fact that Italy is not a federal State, but rather a centralized one. The legislative process follows the so-called system of the “shuttles”: this system provides that both chambers must approve an identical legislative text; otherwise, it will be taken back to the proponent chamber until both chambers have approved the identical text. The legislative initiative belongs to a single deputy, to several deputies that propose it together, or to the parliamentary leader of a party, etc. As above mentioned, the Parliament in joint session elects the President of the Republic. The Parliament approves the State budget, the yearly European Community Law, and the possible constitutional reforms.
The Constitutional Court (Corte Costituzionale) is a supreme court established for safeguarding the articles of the Italian Constitution and for harmonizing norms with them. The Court is composed of 15 judges and passes judgments on several issues. Firstly, on controversies on the constitutional legitimacy of laws issued by the State and Regions, under the conditions established by the Constitutional Law, and when the Court declares a law unconstitutional, the law ceases to have effect the day after the publication of the ruling. Secondly, on conflicts arising from allocation of powers of the State and those powers allocated to State and Regions, and between Regions. Finally, on charges brought against the President of the Republic.
The Superior Council of the Judiciary (Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura) is a self-governing body conceived to ensure the autonomy and independence of the ordinary judiciary power from the other branches of government, particularly from the executive, according to the principle of separation of powers expressed in the Constitution of the Italian Republic. Its President is the President of the Republic.
|The Supreme Court of Cassation|
The Supreme Court of Cassation (Corte Suprema di Cassazione) is the highest court of appeal or court of last resort in Italy. In fact, the Italian judicial system has three increasing levels of courts: the Court of First Instance (Tribunale di Primo Grado), the Court of Appeal (Corte di Appello) and The Court of Cassation. The Court of Cassation also ensures the correct application of law in the inferior and appeal courts and resolves disputes as to which lower court (penal, civil, administrative, military) has jurisdiction to hear a given case.
The Court of Audit (Corte dei Conti) is a supreme audit institution is an organ of the state with judicial functions and administrative control and supervision over the tax revenue and the public spending within the budget of the State.
The Italian party system is multi-party, with five or six main political parties. Historically, there has always been a trend towards a hyper-fragmentation of parties through the birth of new small parties detached from the common ancestor. Notwithstanding, it seems that there is a trend towards a bi-party system. Most current parties represent some kind of evolution from historical post-war parties like Democrazia Cristiana, Partito Socialista Italiano, Partito Comunista Italiano, Movimento Sociael Italiano. To cite some of the Italian parties we can include Partito Democratico, Forza Italia, Lega Nord, Movimento 5 Stelle, Sinsitra Ecologia e Libertà, Unione di Centro.
With regard to local entities, from an administrative point of view Italy is divided into Regions, Provinces and Municipalities. The Regions are 20: ordinary Statutes govern 15 of them, and extraordinary Statutes the remaining 5 (Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol; Friuli-Venezia Giulia; Valle d’Aosta/Vallée d’Aoste; Sardinia; Sicily). Each Region has its own Regional Council (Consiglio Regionale) and the executive power of the Region is exercised by the President of the Region (Presidente della Regione) along with its own Junta. Similarly, the Provinces have a Provincial Council (Consiglio Provinciale) and the President (Presidente della Provincia). Finally, the Municipalities have a Municipal Council (Consiglio Comunale) and are led by a Mayor (Sindaco) sided by his executive helpers (Assessori).
In terms of Italian membership within international organizations, Italy is a member of the United Nations since 1955, of NATO since 1949, of the European Union (being a founding State of the European Coal and Steel Community of 1952, and of the European Economic Community and European Atomic Energy Community of 1957), of the OSCE, of the Council of Europe, of the OECD, of the World Bank, of the International Monetary Fund and of the World Trade Organization.