Italy: The Subnational Dimension to Strengthening Democracy Since the 1990s

Simona Piattoni and Marco Brunazzo

in The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199562978
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

Italy: The Subnational Dimension to Strengthening Democracy Since the 1990s

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  • Regional Political Studies
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This article discusses Italy and its efforts to strengthen democracy in a nation marked with bargained pluralism. Italy was founded in 1860. From its inception, it has been informed by the Napoleonic tradition of centre-periphery relations. With the Napoleonic tradition as a framework, Italy has had a strong and technocratic central apparatus which controlled the territory through its deconcentrated offices placed at the provincial level, with self-government circumscribed to the municipal level. The municipalities were both the traditional locus of self-government and the terminals of the central government, on whose behalf they carried out a number of security and public health tasks. In the elite states of Italy, the Napoleonic tradition was adopted because it was already familiar to them. The remaining municipalities adhered to the German type because of the contention that it would aid in curbing the centripetal forces that were still at work underneath the surface of the unitary rhetoric. In the 1980s, a debate was introduced in Italy on the need for institutional reforms that would lead to the stability and effectiveness of the local governments. At the beginning of the 1990s, the Italian political class officially embraced the need to reform the subnational level of government to permit the creation of an authentic system of political preference formation. In this article, the electoral and territorial reforms, which formed part of the single reformist effort to modernize Italian democracy, are discussed. Included as well are the reforms made in centre-periphery relations to achieve long-coveted political goals.

Keywords: Italy; democracy; bargained pluralism; centre-periphery relations; institutional reforms; subnational levels

Article.  9420 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Regional Political Studies ; Comparative Politics

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