Wednesday, 24 July 2013

2013 Italian General Election – Italian politics at a crossroads?

One-day conference, 17 January 2014, University of Birmingham

Organised with the support of the Political Studies Association, the PSA’s Italian Politics Specialist Group and the Department of Modern Languages, University of Birmingham


The Italian general election of February 2013 can fairly be described as a watershed event, resulting as it did in a political stalemate. With the country more or less divided into three equal segments among which there appeared to be no viable governing combination it was not until the end of April that a government could be formed, and then it was only thanks to the fact that the election’s aftermath coincided with the need to elect a new President of the Republic. The centre-left appeared to have won the election by a wafer-thin margin – but it had no Senate majority and, most importantly, it emerged in front only by virtue of the fact that the haemorrhage in its votes was slightly smaller than the haemorrhage of votes for the centre right. Support for the populist Five-star Movement (M5s), at its first general-election outing, exploded dramatically, to make it the largest single party. As a consequence of the outcome, neither of the logics on which government formation had been based in the ‘First’ and ‘Second Republics’, the consensual and the majoritarian respectively, was any longer available. If therefore, the election seemed to mark the end of an era, the one that appeared to be being ushered in pointed in the direction of a highly uncertain future. The grand coalition that was eventually formed had as its main protagonists two parties that had hitherto found it difficult in the extreme to accord each other legitimacy as potentially governing actors while they were under pressure as never before to bring about reform of the institutions whose mal-functioning had to a significant degree been responsible for the 2013 crisis in the first place.

Against this background papers are invited which in one way or another provide reflection on the effects that such a momentous election have had and are likely to have on the Italian political system and beyond. The organisers are keen to encourage submissions focussing on a wide range of perspectives/topics, but conceivably proposals might offer to examine:
  • specific parties, their performances and prospects, the most obvious example to mention here being the M5s;
  • political campaigns – e.g. strategies (including the use of new-media) and impact;
  • the party system as a whole – bearing in mind the extent to which the events leading up to the election, and its outcome, were so closely bound up with the parties’ loss of authority thanks to disappointment of the expectations that had arisen from the political upheavals of the early 1990s and the initiation of the so-called ‘Second Republic’;
  • popular attitudes – and especially the anti-political sentiments to which the parties’ loss of authority had given rise;
  • government and policy-making, including the formation and programmes of the governments that immediately preceded and followed the election – both executives, in their different ways, representing novelties;
  • the role of Italy’s place in Europe (and beyond) – both from the perspective of its significance as a campaign issue and a factor in the election run-up and from the perspective of the implications for it of the election outcome.     

Paper proposals (max 300 words) should be submitted by 18 October to Jim Newell (, Arianna Giovannini ( and Daniele Albertazzi  ( from either of whom further details about the conference can be obtained. The event is supported by the Italian Politics Specialist Group of the Political Studies Association (PSA), the Department of Modern Languages of the University of Birmingham and the Political Studies Association (special activities fund). Journalists from the Italian, the UK and international media will be invited to attend, together with prestigious keynote speakers.

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