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The man who never was? The Italian transition and 2008 election

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The implications for the co-called Italian transition of the 2008 election initially seemed significant - but have since become increasingly uncertain as Berlusconi's conflict of interests has risen higher up the political agenda. This underscores the pertinence of asking about the sense in which the notion of 'transition' is actually applicable to the Italian case at all - bearing in mind that it describes a process now supposedly underway for some 17 years; and bearing in mind that its end point can seemingly not be identified (though by definition 'transition' implies movement between two points). Discovering if the term applies to the Italian case and if so whether 2008 has brought its conclusion nearer requires exploring if the political protagonists that have emerged from the election as the most significant players - the Popolo della Liberta and the Partito Democratico - have sufficient commonality of view, sufficient desire and sufficient power to complete a process of constitutional overhaul. The evidence suggests that while they have the view and the desire, there are significant limitations on their power. The election might potentially have been a watershed in the so-called Italian transition in the broader sense of system performance, aside from formal constitutional change. Here too, however, the evidence points away from the idea that 2008 represents a real sea change - though the chances seem good that it will come to be perceived as such.
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Keywords: Berlusconi; Italy; May 2008 election; government; party system; transition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Salford,

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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