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POLITICS

An introduction to Italy’s small political parties

One of the distinctive features of the Italian political landscape is the large number of parties, some of them encompassing a wide range of ideologies and some focusing on a single issue or region.

An introduction to Italy's small political parties
Italy's Chamber of Deputies, the Lower House of Parliament. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The smallest among them are often referred to as 'shrubs' or 'minnows' and come from all sides of the political spectrum.

But since the Second World War, no single party has ever earned enough votes to govern alone, making coalitions the norm – which means the small parties can have a decisive impact when it comes to forming alliances.

Here's a look at some of Italy's smaller parties and who their strongest allies are.

Brothers of Italy (FdI)

 

This rightwing party is part of Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right alliance, along with Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the Northern League.

Led by Giorgia Meloni, the party's full name is Brothers of Italy-National Alliance: its founding members belonged to the National Alliance, the successor of Italy's Fascist party. However, they came from the more liberal faction of the party and it was originally created in 2012 in order to oppose Mario Monti, allying with Silvio Berlusconi in elections to increase his support among the right.

Its views are national-conservative, and 'Brothers of Italy' is a reference to the first line of Italy's national anthem. The party has taken an anti-euro stance, siding with Marine Le Pen in this year's French elections, which she ultimately lost.

The party obtained two percent of the votes and nine seats in Italy's Lower House of Parliament in the 2013 election, though it performed better in the local elections later that year.


Giorgia Meloni addresses the media. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

 

Free and Equal (LeU)

The newest kid on the political block is an alliance created in December 2017 by Senate president and former anti-mafia prosecutor Pietro Grasso. It includes ex-Democratic Party (PD) members who left due to disagreements with party leader Matteo Renzi, and is made up of the Italian Left, Democratic and Progressive Movement (both described in more detail below) as well as Possible, a small leftwing party founded in 2015.

Democratic and Progressive Movement (MDP)

In 2017, a group of rebels within the Democratic Party who were opposed to party leader Matteo Renzi broke away to form the MDP, and were joined by some politicians of the Italian Left. In their opening manifesto, they said they aimed to “begin a centre-left renewal”, though the group supports Paolo Gentiloni's government.


Roberto Speranza, leader of the MPD. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Italian Left (SI)

Another newbie on the political scene, the Italian Left was only formed as a full party in February 2017, made up of the former Left Ecology Freedom party as well as politicians who broke away from the Democratic Party and the Five Star Movement, some local groups and youth organizations.

Popular Alternative (AP) 

Only founded in March 2017, the AP is a descendant of the New Centre Right, which split off from the People of Freedom (PdL) just before that party became Forza Italia. It sounds confusing (and it is!) but gives some idea of how common breakaway parties and changes in name (and ideology) are on the Italian political scene. 

READ ALSO: Italy's political system – six key things to know

The AP is led by Angelino Alfano, who was secretary of the Silvio Berlusconi-led PdL until 2013 and widely expected to eventually take over from the media magnate. Alfano was Justice Minister under Berlusconi and has held the offices of Interior Minister and Foreign Minister since he struck out on his own. Currently, the AP has 21 deputies (of a total of 630) and 21 senators (of 315).

The AP's ideology has its roots in Christian democracy, and Alfano has been a conservative voice in recent governments on issues such as gay rights, adoption, and surrogacy, which he controversially called for to be treated “like a sex crime”

However, Alfano threw the party's future into doubt when he announced in December he would not be running in the 2018 election, a blow to the PD, as the AP is part of its current government and would have been a likely ally.


Angelino Alfano. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Direction Italy (DI)

Formed in January 2017, Direction Italy is a centre-right party combining conservative and liberal stances. It was preceded by the Conservatives and Reformists, which split off from Forza Italia. Both parties were led by Raffaele Fitto who opposed FI's alliance with the Democratic Party under the Nazareno Pact

Liberal Popular Alliance (ALA)

The centre-right ALA is another offshoot of Berlusconi's Forza Italia. It is led by Denis Verdini, a former banker who broke away from FI to support Matteo Renzi's government.

Christian Revolution (RC)

Though the RC only has one deputy (its leader, Gianfranco Rotondi), it is affiliated with Forza Italia. As the name would suggest, the party is strongly influenced by Catholic teaching.

Civic Choice (SC)

Civic Choice was founded by former economist Mario Monti, who led a technocrat government appointed in 2011 to help Italy in the wake of the financial crisis. Despite never having held an elected office, when he left government Monti set up Civic Choice in order to seek re-election as PM as part of a centrist coalition – however, the coalition ended up coming fourth. The party now has seven deputies and its president is Mariano Rabino.


Mario Monti. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP

Union of the Centre (UdC)

The party's full name, Union of Christian and Centre Democrats, gives an insight into its ideology, which is centrist but leaning more to the right, and based on Christian democracy. On issues such as abortion, gay rights, and euthanasia the party is extremely conservative.

It has taken part in different alliances, most often with Forza Italia but also with the Democratic Party and Alfano's Popular Alternative. In the 2013 elections, it gained 1.8 percent of the vote – a significant drop from previous years when it received over five percent – but has performed more strongly in southern regions.

Centrists for Europe (CpE)

Formed by politicians breaking away from the UdC earlier this year, this is another centrist party based on Christian democracy. The breakaway happened after the UdC became increasingly critical of Renzi's government and moved slightly to the political right. 

Italy of Values (IdV)

Founded by a former prosecutor in Italy's biggest ever corruption case and now run by a magistrate, Italy of Values positions itself in the centre. It has a populist ideology, aimed at giving a voice back to the people and tackling corruption in politics, and its members and supporters also include figures from the far left. In 2013, it won 2.25 and 1.79 percent of the vote in the Chamber of Deputies and Senate respectively, but performs most strongly in the south.

READ ALSO: What is Italy's ruling Democratic Party?

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

On eve of election, Italy braces for potential far-right win

Italians on Saturday braced for seismic change, on the eve of an election forecast to hand Italy the most right-wing government since World War II.

On eve of election, Italy braces for potential far-right win

Out with internationally respected Mario Draghi and in — polls say — with Eurosceptic Giorgia Meloni, head of the post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, who is widely tipped to become the country’s first woman to head a government.

“The country is eager for a change, a new face,” Wolfango Piccoli of the London-based political risk consultancy Teneo told AFP.

Italy is battling a series of crises, from rampant inflation and extreme weather events linked to climate change, to an energy crisis aggravated by the war in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding the Brothers of Italy

The campaign, sparked by Draghi’s downfall in July, wrapped up on Friday, giving Italians a day of reprieve as electioneering is banned until the vote.

People who spoke to AFP in Rome on Saturday said they were unsure the day before the election as the latest polls show that the Brothers of Italy party is likely to win and form a government.

“I am worried by the fact that the polls have the right-wing as the winner, especially Giorgia Meloni,” said Maria Tasca, a 27-year-old student originally from Sicily.

‘No magic solution’

“From what she has said on women’s rights, on young people’s rights, on rights in general, I see things going backwards by at least 50 years,” Tasca added.

“The problems are worldwide, there’s no magic solution. But sometimes you have to change,” said a 75-year-old shop owner, who gave his name only as Dante.

Meloni, 45, has worked hard over the past few weeks to reassure skittish investors and an anxious Brussels that her party’s historic ties to supporters of dictator Benito Mussolini are a thing of the past.

She has softened her tone and posted a video of herself on TikTok making traditional pastries from the Puglia region.

But she channelled warrior Aragorn from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings on Thursday at the closing rally for the right-wing coalition, which unites her Brothers of Italy with Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League party and billionaire Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding Italy’s League

The self-described “Christian mother” segued smoothly from the fantasy king to blaming the left for the country’s “drug dealers, thieves, rapists and mafia”, adding: “This Italy ends on Sunday”.

Berlusconi, 85, was at her side.

The media mogul — who is on trial accused of bribing starlets not to testify about his allegedly erotic parties — has campaigned mainly online, wooing grandmothers and housewives with promises of stay-at-home salaries.

TikTok jokes

He has also chased the youth vote with some TikTok jokes — including one about not trying to steal their girlfriends.

The race has seen the parties try to win over voters with ideas such as sending goods from northern to southern Italy via tube and fighting climate change with cannabis.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding Italy’s Five Star Movement

Former interior minister Salvini, 49, campaigned under the slogan “Credo” (I believe), earning him a rebuke from the Catholic Church.

Fearful of losing a significant chunk of his supporters to Meloni, Salvini has tried to stand out by calling for an end to sanctions against Russia and railing against Brussels.

But the end of his campaign was overshadowed by a video clip of him describing a blind League candidate on Thursday as “an eye for Italians”.

The centre-left’s Enrico Letta, head of the Democratic Party (PD), rocked up to his final rally in an electric van — reminding voters of his earlier efforts to promote ecologically friendly transport, when his electric campaign
bus ran out of battery.

His main rival for votes on the left, Giuseppe Conte, head of the populist Five Star Movement, seemed to have more staying power.

He was photographed so often standing head and shoulders above the crowd amid a throng of supporters that the media dubbed him the “travelling Madonna”.

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