Reassessing Presidents and Prime Ministers in North America, Europe and Japan
New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Edited by Ludger Helms
Chapter 7: Italy: Goodness, Badness, and the Trajectories of Mediocrity
Gianfranco Pasquino Any analysis of political leadership in post-war Italy has to start with an important note of caution. After the experience with Fascism and Mussolini’s rule, Italy’s political and social elites were governed by a widespread preoccupation with the possible re-appearance of strong personal leadership. This explains why those politicians and parliamentarians who participated in the activities of the Constituent Assembly (June 1946 to December 1947) decided that the President of the Council of Ministers1 should have a rather weak role and that his institutional powers were to remain quite limited (a primus inter pares). This ‘complex of the tyrant’ alone, however, cannot fully explain the constitutional parameters of the Italian premiership. There also seems to have been some ‘constitutional diffusion’ at work. Just a few months before the inception of the Italian Republic, the French constitution-makers had created their Fourth Republic, the arrangements of which – including the assignment of strictly limited powers to their prime minister – became known to their Italian counterparts immediately, and almost certainly influenced them in their constitutional choices. Apart from the constitutional parameters of the office, there is another, possibly even more important, reason why Italian heads of government have rarely become powerful political leaders, and this additional reason relates to the political culture of the two most important parties: the Christian Democrats and the Communists. For different reasons, both were highly suspicious of strong political leaders – the Christian Democrats believing that politicians should be ‘at the service’ of the people, and the Communists...
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