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Party system change and parliamentary scrutiny of the executive in Italy †

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Conventional wisdom suggests that internal institutionalisation of parliamentary procedures causes greater policy effects on executive decisions and secondary legislation. The role played by parliaments in policy-making depends on internal processes, but it also depends on other factors, such as the changing structure of the party system – the bipolarisation of which determines the legislative opposition's strategy and performance. The empirical research discussed in this paper shows that the Italian parliamentary process for approving and implementing secondary legislation changed considerably – from pervasive and substantive to formalistic and procedural – during the 1990s, as a result of the parliamentary opposition behaving differently in response to the accomplished alternation in government. Despite the greater institutionalisation of the Italian Parliament, parliamentary scrutiny of secondary legislation has in fact had a diminishing impact on policy. This paper evaluates the increasingly limited power of parliamentary committees to amend delegated legislation in draft against a comparative analysis of the law-making process and performance of the opposition. The effect on policy of parliamentary scrutiny of secondary legislation is found to be proportionately related to consociational practices during the legislative process. The scrutiny of parliaments is greater when the balance between the legislative majority and opposition is characterised by consociational practices.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2005

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