Italian reform targets stability

Sixty-three governments in 70 years. Attempts at reform have failed. Now, more than ever, the values of the constitution must come to the fore.

Italy is a country founded on mistrust, where political entities live in fear of each other. Rather than promoting fully operational institutions that are independent from the political wrangling in Parliament, this fear has steered the institutional framework towards mutual deterrents to ensure that no political party can get the upper hand.

The result is a perfect bicameralism, in which each of the two houses has the same prerogatives in terms of function and electoral legitimacy. Thus the vetoes often imposed by the various parties end up frustrating the implementation of policies supported by the electorate. The legislature finds itself at the mercy of parliamentary whim.

There have been 63 governments in the past 70 years, and the position of prime minister is weak, merely the first among equals. The problem has been compounded by the relationship between the state and the regional authorities, initially based on a temporal delay in their operation, then on increasingly confused relationships, coming to a head in 2001 with the introduction of a federal approach.

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