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Editor's Note

The current translation of the ICL edition and the following background information and historical data has been provided by Carlo Fusaro.

Constitutional Background

The text of the Italian Constitution of 1948 has been amended 14 times. Amendments have affected articles 27 (abolishment of death penalty), 48 (vote by mail), 51 (women participation), 56, 57, 60 (composition and length of term of the two Houses); 68 (indemnity and immunity of members of Parliament); 79 (amnesties and pardons); 88 (dissolution of the Houses); 96 (impeachment); 114 through 132 (the entire part concerning Regions, Provinces and Municipalities); 134, 135 (composition and length of term of the Constitutional Court). In 1967 articles 10 and 26 have been integrated by a constitutional provision that established that their last paragraphs (which forbid the extradition of a foreigner for political offences) do not apply in case of crimes of genocide.

Three Parliamentary Commissions have been convened in 1983-1985, 1992-1994 and 1997-1998 with the task of preparing major revisions of the 1948 text (and especially part II concerning the organisation of the Republic: Parliament, President, Government, Judiciary, Regions and Municipalities, Constitutional Court, Revision of the Constitution), but they were not able to accomplish their task because each time the necessary political consensus was missing in the end.

Four amendments have been passed during the Thirteenth Legislature (1996-2001): they concerned the parliamentary representation of Italians living abroad, the devolution of powers to the Regions, the direct election of the Regions' Presidents and the guarantees of fair trial in courts.

A constitutional law and one amendment have been passed in the first part of the Fourteenth Legislature (2001-2006): the repealing of transitory provision XIII insofar as it limited the civil rights of the male members and descendants of the House of Savoy (Italy's royal family until 1946) and a new provision meant to foster women participation in politics. On 25-26 June 2006 a national referendum rejected a major Reform Bill which had been approved by the two Chambers in November 2005 (see below). The attempt to revise part II of the Constitution seemed bound to be abandoned or at least postponed indefinitely: however the short life of the XV Parliament (elected in May 2006 and dissolved in February 2008) and the developments which followed (early elections, a much less fragmented representation, a relatively large victory in both Chambers by the center-right coalition led once more by Mr Berlusconi and new less adversarial relations between the new Cabinet and the opposition) might finally pave the way to a new and more effective attempt to revise the Italian political institutions and make them more stable in the course of the XVI Parliamentary term (2008-2013).

History and News

  • 7 May 2008: Mr Berlusconi forms his Fourth Cabinet in a record time of only 23 days after the vote and only 8 days after the first gathering of the two Chambers; in application of a new law, the Cabinet is formed by a record low number of only 22 Ministers and 37 Undersecretaries for a total of 60 (including the President of the Council) compared to 104 who were the members of the previous Prodi Cabinet.
  • 13-14 Aprile 2008: the XVI Parliament is elected; Mr Berlusconi wins a clear majority in both Houses, defeating the new Democratic Part led by Mr Veltroni. Most relevantly only seven parties (plus the parties representing the linguistic minorities) gain access to Parliament; only five Parliamentary groups are formed and the majority is based upon only two relevant parties (the new Freedom People party and the Northern League).
  • 6 February 2008: President Napolitano dissolves the XV Parliament and call new elections
  • 10 October 2007: Art. 27 of the Constitution is amended by Const. Law 2 October 2007, n. 1 which rules out the death penalty even in case of war.
  • 26 June 2006: with 61.3% nays and 38.7 yes a referendum rejects the constitutional law passed by Parliament in November 2005; 53% of the electors take part. However two of the most advanced Regions have voted in favour (Lombardia, Veneto).
  • 14 June 2006: the late President of the Chamber of Deputies and  Senator for life Mr Giorgio Napolitano is elected eleventh President of the Italian Republic. He is voted by the center-left coalition only with 543 votes (54%) at the fourth attempt.
  • 6 May 2006: by a thin majority of merely 25,224 votes in the entire nation (0,066%), the center-left coalition led by Mr Romano Prodi wins a solid majority in the Chamber of Deputies (348 vs. 281, due to the new electoral law) and a  very slim one in the Senate (158 vs. 156), defeating the center-right coalition led by former premier Silvio Berlusconi. Mr Prodi forms his second Cabinet in June, after the election of the new President of the Republic.
  • 21 December 2005: Parliament passes a new electoral law featuring proportional representation based upon closed lists combined with a bonus in terms of seats granted to the winning coalition of lists.
  • 16 November 2005: Parliament passes a major reform of part II of the Constitution. If it will enter into force it  would strengthen the Cabinet, strengthen the powers of the Prime minister within the Cabinet, change the role of the two Chambers in the direction of a more differentiated bicameral system and fine tune State-Regions relations after the 2001 title V Reform. 
  • 20 February 2003: Article 51 of the Constitution has been amended in order to promote women participation in politics (only 9.2% of the total parliamentary membership are women).
  • 23 October 2002: a constitutional law repealing transitory provision XIII concerning the limitation of the civil rights of the male members of the House of Savoy is published.
  • 7 October 2001: for the first time an extensive constitutional amendment concerning the entire Part V of the Constitution (Regions, Provinces and Municipalities) is approved through popular referendum. 64.2% vote in favour but only 34% of those entitled to, do vote.
  • 13 May 2001: The centre-right coalition called the House of Freedoms' wins a solid majority in both Houses (365 out of 630 in the Chamber, 177 out of 315 in the Senate) and on June 11, Mr Silvio Berlusconi, media tycoon and founder of Italy's largest party (Forza Italia), forms the new Cabinet (his second after a short experience in 1994).
  • 13 May 1999: Mr Carlo Azeglio Ciampi (independent) is elected tenth President of the Republic by a large majority of representatives belonging to both majority and opposition. He obtains 707 votes out of 1111.
  • 18 April 1999: 91% of voters vote in favour of the suppression of the proportional part of the electoral law for the Chamber, but only 49.6% of those entitled to vote do (instead of 50% + 1 as required by the Constitution in order to render a law-repealing referendum valid) and the referendum is void.
  • 27 January 1997: A third Parliamentary Commission on Constitutional Reforms is summoned.
  • 21 April 1996: Second elections with the new electoral laws: victory of the Olive Tree coalition led by Mr Romano Prodi who becomes premier.
  • 27 March 1994: First elections with the new electoral laws (the centre-right coalition prevails but it won't be able to govern for more than 7 months due to internal quarrels).
  • 18 April 1993: Referendum followed by majoritarian reform of Italian electoral laws.
  • 23 July 1992: A second Parliamentary Commission for Institutional Reforms is summoned.
  • 28 May 1992: Christian Democrat Mr Oscar Luigi Scalfaro is elected ninth President of the Republic.
  • 17 February 1992: "Clean Hands" gets going (large judicial investigation on illegal financing of politics and corruption).
  • 9 June 1991: A massive "yes" changes the electoral law for the Chamber of deputies.
  • 14 April 1983: For the first time after the Constitution, a Parliamentary Commission is summoned to draw a project meant to revise the Constitution.
  • 2 May 1974: The first referendum in Italian constitutional history is held (the law which allows divorce is confirmed by a majority of 59.3%).
  • 7 June 1970: Regional decentralization becomes effective with the first regional elections.
  • 14 June 1956: First decision by the newly summoned Constitutional Court.
  • 1 January 1948: The new Constitution enters into force.
  • 11 December 1947: With 453 votes in favour and 62 against, the new Constitution is passed.
  • 2 June 1946: Victory of the republican option in the referendum on the form of State (12.717.923 votes for the Republic; 10.719.284 for the Monarchy); women vote for the first time; the same day the Constituent Assembly is elected.
  • 17 march 1861: proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy.

For methodology see: Comparing Constitutions and International Constitutional Law.
© 1994 - December 16th, 2010 / Supervised by C. Fusaro.
For corrections please contact A. Tschentscher.