“From the populist paradise to the technocratic reign.
The Italian political system on the eve of elections”
Simona Piattoni (University of Trento)
Marco Valbruzzi (University of Naples Federico II)
The XVIII parliamentary term represented a particularly complex transitional period for the Italian political system. If the 2013 elections had hinted that a profound change was underway, the 2018 election results have revealed a radically new political landscape. The bipolar competition that had distinguished the electoral arena during the ‘second Italian party system’ (1994-2013) has eventually made room for an electoral market that is not only more articulate but also more fluid and unpredictable.
Three governments have alternated in power since June 2018 – and, in many respects, they have been completely different governments. As known, this parliamentary term was opened, after long and cumbersome negotiations, with the so-called ‘yellow-green coalition government’, but the populist alliance between the Lega and Movimento 5 Stelle lasted little more than a year. As a matter of fact, the results of the 2019 European elections reinforced the ambition of the leader of the Lega, Matteo Salvini, and eventually led to the early termination of the populist ruling coalition. The Five-Star Movement – worn out in terms of electoral support after a year in power, internally split and organizationally weakened – decided to exploit its pivotal position in parliament by giving birth to a new center-left coalition government with the Democratic Party and other minor progressive parties.
At the beginning of the year 2020 – just few months after the formation of the second cabinet led by Giuseppe Conte – the pandemic emergency breaks out and completely changed the game. The state of emergency left no room for internal frictions and divisions, and it quickly led to a reconfiguration of the political space. But just as the Covid-19 emergency cooled down and the need for routine pandemic management emerged, the delicate balance within the cabinet broke down.
Within a few weeks, the internal fibrillations of the forces that support the government – mainly stimulated by Matteo Renzi's new personal party – lead to government resignation, with the subsequent formation of a technocrat-led
unity government headed by the former ECB president, Mario Draghi. All the parties represented in parliament joined the new government with the sole exception of Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia, which strategically decided to fiercely remain in opposition.
Eventually, the current war in Ukraine has brought about a final reshuffle of the political actors and their strategic orientations, whereas the new EU funding programmes for economic recovery do not seem to provide any longer an incentive for keeping the government unite and cohesive. All this suggests that the last months of Mario Draghi government will be particularly contentious, anticipating the kick-off of the general election campaign. The XVIII legislature has been absolutely exceptional under many respects. During these turbulent five years, internal and external challenges – Covid-19 pandemic, economic distress, war in Ukraine – have not only reshuffled the political landscape but also offered new opportunities and challenges to social movements and political leaders. Hence, there is much to be analyzed and explained when approaching the next parliamentary elections to be held in the spring 2023.
The aim of this special issue is to provide a critical overview of the XVIII parliamentary term, with the intention of investigating, both at the theoretical and empirical level, the state of the Italian political system and of its democracy on the eve of an election date that promises to be absolutely uncertain and consequential. In the light of this, we welcome contributions with a broad range of questions, approaches and methods. Possible topics include but are not limited to:
a) evolution of the party system between deinstitutionalization and electoral realignment;
b) organizational change of political parties and reconfiguration of the ideological space;
c) legislative processes and new dynamics of confrontation between government and opposition;
d) new role of the EU, from the (c)age of austerity to Next Generation EU – and its impact on domestic politics
e) principles and practices of social mobilization during the state of emergency;
f) parliamentary activity, party switching and the changing (or declining) role of parliament;
g) international relations and Italy’s role in the new multipolar global order;
h) effects and prospects of the institutional reforms on the quality of government and democratic representation;
i) policy-making and interest group representation in the implementation of the national recovery plan;
l) the management of the pandemic crisis and the ‘game of roles’: government, opposition, experts and citizens
Titles and abstracts for papers (maximum 300 words) are invited by 30 June 2022.
The abstract should clearly describe the key question, the theoretical and methodological approach, the evidence the argument is based on, as well as its wider implications and the extent to which they are of theoretical relevance. Selected abstracts will be notified to authors by 10 July 2022. The total length of the article should not exceed 7,000 words and should be submitted by 18 September 2022.