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Italy’s Return to Political Paralysis

For more than a decade, Italy has been ruled through a bipolar political system. Voters could choose between a left-wing coalition and a right-wing coalition. Those disappointed by the incumbent government could vote for the opposition. And the existence of a viable alternative has had a disciplining effect on politicians: not by chance, Silvio Berlusconi’s government served its entire electoral term.

This is in stark contrast to the Italian political tradition. Throughout the post-war era, until the early 1990’s, Italian governments survived less than a year on average. Voters were unable to choose between the incumbent and the opposition, because the same centrist parties were in office all the time. Government crises were merely an opportunity to reshuffle key cabinet positions or change the party faction of the prime minister.