In this lesson, we will talk about a very interesting topic that is an important part of Italian history and culture and that those who are studying the Italian language should know at least a little bit about it. We will explain in broad outlines how the Italian political system works, without boring you too much (although it won’t be easy!). Are you ready? Let’s get started!
THE ITALIAN POLITICAL SYSTEM
Article 1 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic states:
L’Italia è una Repubblica democratica, fondata sul lavoro.
La sovranità appartiene al popolo, che la esercita nelle forme e nei limiti della Costituzione.
Italy is a democratic Republic founded on labour.
Sovereignty belongs to the people and is exercised by the people in the forms and within the limits of the Constitution.
As you can see, the first article of the Constitution immediately tells us that the Italian political system is based on a democratic Republic: specifically, Italy is a parliamentary Republic because the representation of the will of the people is given to the Parliament.
2/06/1946 is a very important date for Italy because it was the day in which, through a referendum, the monarchy (proclaimed in 1861 during the Italian Risorgimento) was abolished. Therefore, in 1946, the Constituent Assembly was elected to write the Constitution, which was promulgated in 1947 and put into effect the 1/01/1948.
The organization of the Italian political system is rooted in the principle of the separation of powers: the Parliament exercises the legislative power, the Government has the executive power, and finally, the Magistrature exercises the judicial power.
Among the most important figures for what concerns domestic and foreign policy, we will mention two of which you certainly have heard about:
- The President of the Republic, also known as the head of the State, is the highest position of the Italian Republic, and he represents its unity. Currently, the President of the Republic is Sergio Mattarella and he has been occupying this position since 2015.
- Since 1/06/2018, the President of the Council of Ministers, also known as the Head of the Government, is Giuseppe Conte, an Italian politician, lawyer, and university professor.
THE ITALIAN CONSTITUTION
The Constitution of the Italian Republic is the fundamental law of Italy, and it consists of 139 articles and 18 transitional and final provisions. The Constitution is the main source of legislation of the Italian Republic, in other words, the source on which all the other different legal norms of the State’s judicial system depend hierarchically.
The duty of verifying the constitutionality, namely the compliance with the Constitution, with State and regional laws, also known as the control of constitutional legitimacy, is given to the Constitutional Court. It is a political institution that has been active since 1955 in Rome, at Palazzo della Consulta, in Piazza del Quirinale.
THE ITALIAN PARLIAMENT
The Parliament of the Italian Republic is a constitutional body that exercises legislative power.
According to the principle of perfect bicameralism, the Parliament is divided into two Houses: the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic. Both Houses have the same power and competence.
According to the Electoral law of 2017, the Parliament counts 630 deputies and 315 senators. This situation is still in force and effect today, and it will be until the end of the XVIII legislature, which started on 23/03/2018.
Starting from the XIX legislature, however, the situation will change: indeed, this year, on the 20th and 21st of September, through a constitutional referendum, Italians approved a constitutional reform that included a decrease of the number of members of the Parliament from 630 to 400 deputies and from 315 to 200 senators.
THE ITALIAN GOVERNMENT
The Government is the institution that exercises executive power.
In the Government, there are 3 bodies: the President of the Council of Ministers, the Ministers (whose number is 13), and the Council of Ministers (which corresponds to the union of the two previous ones).
The Government relies on the vote of confidence of both Houses of Parliament and, in case of emergency, it has the power of issuing decree-laws which have to be approved by the Parliament within 60 days.
The President of the Council of Ministers is appointed by the President of the Republic and is usually chosen within the parties that have the majority in the Parliament. After the election, the Prime Minister submits to the President of the Republic the appointments of those who will form the Council of the Ministers, provided that, as previously mentioned, the Government receives the vote of confidence from both Houses of Parliament.
Precisely because the position of the President of the Council of Ministers strictly depends on the vote of confidence of the Parliament, the duration of his term is indefinite, which means that there is no minimum or maximum number of years for his stay in office.
However, the Parliament can present a motion of non-confidence which has to be signed by at least 1/10 of the members of the House in which the motion was presented. If it is approved, the Government or the Minister against whom it has been proposed has to resign. The approval of the motion of non-confidence also entails the dissolution of the Parliament and the calling of new elections.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC
The President of the Republic, as previously mentioned, is the head of the State and represents national unity. This is the highest office of the State and it includes some competencies formerly attributed to the king of Italy. The President of the Republic represents a sort of meeting point between the three branches of power: he is the one who appoints the executive (the Government), and he is the President of the judicial system.
The president of the Republic is elected by a constituency formed by both Houses of the Parliament and 58 regional representatives; his mandate lasts 7 years.
Although not explicitly stated by law, the President of the Republic can be re-elected, which means that he can be appointed for multiple mandates: Giorgio Napolitano, the predecessor of Sergio Mattarella, was the first President in Italian history to be elected for a second term in 2013.
Here we are at the end of this lesson! We have some questions for you: do you like politics? What’s the political system of your country? Who is your President? We are curious to know more about your country and culture. Leave your answers down in the comments!
If you are interested in Italian history and culture, we also recommend that you watch the video in which we talk about the Second World War.