Italy has been a democratic republic since 2 June, 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum. The constitution was promulgated on 1 January, 1948. The 1948 Constitution of Italy established a bicameral parliament, consisting of a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate, with a separate judiciary, and an executive branch composed of a Council of Ministers, headed by the prime minister. The President of the Italian Republic is elected for seven years by the parliament sitting jointly with a small number of regional delegates. The president nominates the prime minister, who proposes the other ministers (formally named by the president). The Council of Ministers must obtain a confidence vote from both houses of Parliament. Under 2005 legislation, the Chamber of Deputies has 630 members (12 of whom are elected by Italians abroad). In addition to 315 elected members (six of whom are elected by Italians abroad), the Senate includes former presidents and several other persons appointed for life according to special constitutional provisions. Both houses are elected for a maximum of five years, but either may be dissolved before the expiration of its normal term. Legislative bills may originate in either house and must be passed by a majority in both. All Italian citizens 18 years or older can vote, with the exception that in order to vote for the senate, the voter must be at least 25 or older.

The Chamber of Deputies

The Chamber of Deputies - source

Until recently, there had been frequent government turnovers since 1945. In spite of this, the dominance of the Christian Democratic (DC) party during much of the post-war period lent continuity and comparative stability to Italy’s political situation. Italy’s dramatic self-renewal transformed the political landscape between 1992 and 1997. Scandal investigations touched thousands of politicians, administrators, and businessmen, and in 1993 referendums voters approved substantial changes, including moving from a proportional to a largely majority based electoral system and the abolishment of some ministries.

Party changes were sweeping. The Christian Democratic Party dissolved. The Italian People’s Party and the Christian Democratic Centre emerged. Other major parties, such as the Socialists, saw support plummet. A new populist and free-market oriented movement, Forza Italia, gained wide support among moderate voters. The National Alliance broke from the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement. A trend toward two large coalitions, one on the centre-left and the other on the centre-right, emerged from the April 1995 regional elections. For the 1996 national elections, the centre-left parties created the Olive Tree coalition while the centre right united again under the Freedom Pole. The May 2001 elections ushered into power a refashioned centre-right coalition dominated by Berlusconi’s party, Forza Italia. In 2005 parliament passed a new electoral law based on full proportional assignment of seats. The April 2006 elections returned the centre-left to power under the Union coalition, a successor to the Olive Tree. Freedom House now sits in the opposition.

The largest bloc in the Chamber of Deputies was the Olive Tree (31.3%), a grouping of the Democrats of the Left and the Daisy Party within the Union coalition; Forza Italia (23.7%); the National Alliance (12.3%); the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats (6.8%); and the Communist Renewal Party (5.8%). Similar rankings generally apply in the Senate, in which the Olive Tree coalition and Forza Italia were the dominant parties. In October 2007, the Olive Tree parties officially merged to form the Democratic Party. Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni was chosen as party leader and is expected to be the centre-left’s main candidate in the April 2008 elections. Silvio Berlusconi launched an alliance between his Forza Italia party and Gianfranco Fini’s National Alliance. The parties will run together under the People of Liberty symbol. A reform of the electoral system is expected after the elections, with the goal of reducing the influence of small parties.


Senate - source

Head of state: Giorgio Napolitano (PD) - President, head of Government: Silvio Berlusconi (PDL) - Prime Minister, Governing party: PDL, LN, MPA

Last national elections 2008

Last national elections 2008

Last European Parliament election June 2009 See: •,_2009_(Italy)

Regions, provinces, and municipalities

Italy is subdivided into 20 regions. Five of these regions have a special autonomous status that enables them to enact legislation on some of their local matters. It is further divided into 109 provinces and 8,101 municipalities.

Region Capital Area (km²) Population
Abruzzo L’Aquila 10,794 1,305,000
Basilicata Potenza 9,992 594,000
Calabria Catanzaro 15,080 2,004,000
Campania Naples 13,595 5,790,000
Emilia-Romagna Bologna 22,124 4,187,000
Friuli-Venezia Giulia Trieste 7,855 1,208,000
Lazio Rome 17,207 5,304,000
Liguria Genoa 5,421 1,610,000
Lombardy Milan 23,861 9,375,000
Marche Ancona 9,694 1,528,000
Molise Campobasso 4,438 320,000
Piedmont Turin 25,399 4,341,000
Apulia Bari 19,362 4,071,000
Sardinia Cagliari 24,090 1,655,000
Aosta Valley Aosta 3,263 123,000
Tuscany Florence 22,997 3,619,000
Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol Trento 13,607 985,000
Umbria Perugia 8,456 867,000
Sicily Palermo 25,708 5,017

Vatican City

Population: 800

Capital City: Vatican City

Languages: Italian, Latin

Currency: the Euro

Religions: Catholic

Land Area: 44,030 km2

St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City

St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City - source

This is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome. At approximately 44,030 square kilometres, and with a population of around 800, it is the smallest independent state in the world by both population and area. Vatican City is a non-hereditary, elected monarchy that is ruled by the Bishop of Rome - the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all clergymen of the Catholic Church.

San Marino

Population: 4,385

Capital City: San Marino

Languages: Italian

Currency: the Euro

Religions: Catholic, others

Land Area: 61.2 km2

A country in the Apennine Mountains, this is a landlocked enclave, completely surrounded by Italy. One of the European microstates, San Marino has the smallest population of all the members of the Council of Europe. San Marino claims to be the oldest constitutional republic in the world and that it was founded on 3 September 301 by Marinus of Rab. It is composed of a few towns dotted around the mountain sides. The capital of San Marino is itself called San Marino and is situated high up on a mountain top surrounded by a wall and three distinct towers overlooking the rest of the country.


Population: 5,132,000

Capital City: Palermo (680,810)

Languages: Italian

Currency: the Euro

Religions: Catholic, others

Land Area: 25,706 km2

Italy’s largest island, and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily is also a geographical and political region of Italy, famed for its beautiful beaches, cuisine, and fascinating history. Because of its strategic location, Sicily was invaded over the centuries by many armies, and was once the site of Roman and Greek colonies. The economy is based largely on agriculture, fishing, mining, and tourism.

Most of the island is a mountainous plateau. The highest point, Mt. Etna (an active volcano), rises to 3,323 m. The central plateau slopes to coastal lowlands and to some fertile areas drained by many small rivers and streams. Major rivers include the Salso and the Simeta.

The Mafia (also known as La Cosa Nostra) is a Sicilian criminal secret society which is believed to have first developed in the mid-19th century in Sicily. The Sicilian Cosa Nostra is a loose confederation of about one hundred Mafia groups, also called cosche or families, each of which claims sovereignty over a territory, usually a town or village or a neighbourhood of a larger city, though without ever fully conquering and legitimizing its monopoly of violence. For many years, the power mechanisms of the single families were the sole ruling bodies within the two associations, and they have remained the real centres of power even after super ordinate bodies were created in the Cosa Nostra beginning in the late 1950s.