Carlo Fusaro

In English

Tokyo seminar (2004)

The Politics of Constitutional Reform in Italy

Recent developments (1996-2004)

Carlo Fusaro


 1.    Premise


2.    A short summary of previous key events as introduction

2.1.  The de-legitimation of the after WWII political system, its roots, its causes and its occasion

2.2.  The change from below pursued with constitutional means (the so-called referendum strategy). The idea of a “constitutional revolution” to bypass the Parliament controlled by the political parties of the time

2.3.  The 1990-1994 transition from functional majoritarianism to structural majoritarianism

2.4.  The new electoral laws as a road with no alternative and its obvious faults

2.5.  A relatively soft change where open and mostly latent opposition never lacked. Laws are easy to change, a political culture is a much more resilient and resistent feature

2.6.  The flop of the 1994-1996 Twelfth Parliament and the useful heritage of the third electoral law change (the 1995 amendments to the law 108/1968 on regional elections)


3.    The mixed fortunes and the achievements in constitutional matters of the Center-Left coalitions of the Thirteenth Parliament (1996-2001)

3.1.                 The near direct-election of Mr Prodi and his uncertain majority in the Chambers

3.2.                 The new constraints by the Constitutional Court (law-decrees less available than before and the discovery of an efficient alternative: long term relevance)

3.3.                 The double track of reform by law and of constitutional reform

3.3.1.   the Constitutional law 1/1997 for the summoning of the Third Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional innovations: relevant features of the law

3.3.2.the Bassanini Laws and the administrative federalism

3.4.The outcome of the D’Alema Committee and its useful by-products. Why it failed, what it had proposed, what survived

3.5.                 The constitutional amendments of the Thirteenth Parliament

3.5.1.the new form of government and the new competence of the Regions

3.5.2.the introduction of the fair trial within art. 111 Const.

3.5.3.the introduction of the right to vote remaining abroad for citizens not resident in Italy and the allocation of 12 chambers and 6 senatorial seats for the new foreign constituencies

3.5.4.the comprehensive reform of title V of the Constitution

3.6.The revision of Title V

3.6.1.   a major constitutional reform by 4 votes of majority: great impact of this method

3.6.2.   main contents of the reform; its aims, its inner contradiction, its potentialities

3.6.3.   the main problems left behind: implementation of the reform, State-Regions conflicts, the untouched bicameral Parliament and the underrepresentation of the regional interests within it


4.    The Center-Right coalition between implementation and reform of the previous Parliament’s legacy

4.1.                 A confused and mixed heritage from the previous legislatures and a particularly high degree of internal differences. Mr Umberto Bossi, the Northern League leader as minister in charge with  the institutional reforms and the devolution

4.2.                 The 2001 referendum and its outcome: the mock opposition revealed

4.3.                 The uncertain and divided majority: should we implement and possibly complete the Center-Left reform or should we rather change it radically? And in case, how should we change it? The attempt of changing it fails: two ministers, two different proposals (La Loggia and Bossi), no immediate outcome

4.4.                 The implementation of the reform through ordinary laws: (a) the law to facilitate the codification of the fundamental principles concerning the concurring competence as laid down by art. 117.3 (waiting for new framework laws) (Law 131/2003); (b)  the framework law with the fundamental principles concerning regional electoral legislation (Law 165/2004)

4.5.                 Stop and go: the constitutional amendment to provide the Regions with new “exclusive” competences is approved but put on a blind track… Its specific content and a major but purely symbolic clash


5.    The latest and most comprehensive attempt to put an end to the long transition and to the season of constitutional innovation

5.1.                 The strange birth of a governmental project to revise one third of the Constitution: similarities and differences compared to the previous experience

5.2.                 Right and logical content, partly dubious solutions. Description and analysis of the text now examined by the Chamber. Its pros and cons. Where some of the solutions originate from

5.3.                 Political, academic and academic/political reactions to the project. A short evaluation of them. Some free voices in both camps…

5.4.                 An evaluation, a few proposals taking into consideration the actors of the decision making process that cannot be bypassed

5.5.                 Very latest developments (the Sept. 2004 majority amendments)

5.6.                 An extremely uncertain outcome


6.    Some conclusive remarks

6.1 About the contest of the implemented, attempted or projected Italian reforms: the reform of the political system, the new form of government, the trend toward federalism.

6.2 In particular: the trend toward a re-distribution of political power to local, regional or subnational authorities

6.3 Ways and forms of constitutional change: from a political point of view…

6.4 … and from a strictly legal point of view.

6.5 The issue of the open or implicit or structural limits to constitutional change.

6.6 Constitution making in the Third Millennium (comprehensive, clear, organic, well written text have became nearly unthinkable; more and more rationalization, more and more details, the method of subsequent approximations, all preocesses by approximation: and so on)

6.7 Is the Italian case so extraordinary? May be it is, may it is not… The trend towards personalization, towards a more conflictual democracy, towards a more decentralized political and institutional system and so on. Italy is not the only democracy attempting to renew its institutions.

6.8 The general issue of democratic fatigue common to most contemporary liberal-democracies. A larger and larger divide between those who just don’t care and those who care too much. Towards a double track democracy? The idea of so-called deliberative democracy, a form of participatory democracy in which those who care concurr to the decision-making process more. Some of the limits of contemporary democracies: how come the leaders appears so mediocre if compared to the ones of the past. Structural limits of democracy?

6.9 In Italy, a majoritarian way towards political competition which needs to be mastered; the survival of too many micro-elites barricaded behind the old and new marketing symbols. Problem: up to which point do they reflect true cleavages existing in society and up to which point they simly self-feed themselves through artificial conflicts? I don’t believe most of them do.

6.10  An evaluation of the long transition: why it could not be other than very long; why it is relatively uncertain; the orle of political culture; political culture and society; problems still do be solved, solutions still to be applied. And still they appear the only solution to pursue: stabilization of the executives; bipolar system and periodical decision on who’s got to lead left to the voters; the guaranteee of potential changes of leadership; a sound government-Parliament relation; a radically changed bicameralism; an effective de-centralization of political choices in line with the concept of subsidiarity, a much more humble approach to the attitude and capacity of politics to transform society.

6.11  The role of constitutional law: not only, of course, as the stronghold of the rule of law and of the individual liberties, but as a incentive for good behaviour by the political actors, as an instrumento to stabilize change. Jose Ortega Y Gasset, a Spanish political thinker of the first half of the XXth century, wrote once that any political undertaking without an institutional and constitutional project is nothing else than pure vulgarity… Well, I agree and I shall add that it’s not just a matter of vulgarity, in most cases it doesn’t work.