CONFERENCE GROUP ON ITALIAN POLITICS AND SOCIETY (CONGRIPS), 106TH ANNUAL MEETING OF THE AMERICAN POLTIICAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATION (APSA), WASHINGTON DC, 3-6 SEPTEMBER 2010
Title: The 2008 Election and the Italian Political System: Quo Vadis?
The outcome of the 2008 general election seems to have represented something of a watershed in Italian politics. Most obviously, it brought the landslide victory of Silvio Berlusconi, making him one of Europe's most successful politicians of recent decades and giving him a position of seeming hegemony in Italian politics. Concomitantly, it brought the failure of the centre left and of Veltroni's project for a single party capable on its own of offering a credible alternative to the current incumbents. Third, in bringing an unprecedented concentration of seats on a small number of parties, one led by a prime minister whose control of it was unassailable, the election brought to office a government that looked set to be the strongest in the history of the Italian republic.
The election prompts two major questions. First, it seems reasonable to think that all else equal outcomes with the foregoing characteristics will bring radical changes in the characteristics of governance. In particular, strong government ought to be self-reinforcing owing to the opportunities it provides for 'permanent campaigning' - using support mobilization as a key resource for governing, while using governing as an instrument to build and sustain support. And it ought therefore to be accompanied by improvement in the actual efficiency and effectiveness of policy outputs and processes of policy making. The second question concerns the great pessimism which this state of affairs reinforces - and has reinforced - for the prospects of the centre left returning to office at any time in the near future. On the one hand, the failure of the 2008 'go-it-alone' approach makes it difficult to envisage any realistic way forward without some kind of alliance strategy. On the other hand, the parties concerned remain as divided and litigious as ever. So in order to assess the significance of the general election of 2008 and thus the current 'state of play' of Italian politics, papers are sought that are relevant to either of these two broad themes. Has the election brought a sea-change in the quality of government in Italy and if so why; if not, why not? What is the current state of the forces of opposition to the centre right and what are their prospects?
Papers can either focus on some particular area of policy making, political actor or aspect of the political system; or they can take a broader focus, considering, for example, the Government or the centre-left in their entirety. What is important is that the papers bring out clearly the bearing of what they have to say on one or both of the aforementioned themes.
Paper abstracts (circa 250 words) should be e-mailed by 30 November 2009 to: the CONGRIPS Program Committee Chair, Jim Newell (firstname.lastname@example.org).