Publications & Resources


Albertazzi, Daniele. “Forget about Strasbourg, it’s Rome that will make or break the Five Star Movement.” The LSE Blog. EUROPP, 10 Jan. 2017. Web. 19 Jan. 2017. Link: <>.


Daniele Albertazzi (with S. Mueller) ‘Populism and Liberal Democracy: Populists in Government in Austria, Italy, Poland and Switzerland’, in Cas Mudde (ed.) The Populist Radical Right: A Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2017.  Link: <>.


Daniele Albertazzi, "Stop the Drama: Italy's referendum outcome will not lead to the break-up of the EU". The London School of Economics and Political Science. EUROPP, 14 Dec. 2016. Web. <>.

Reflecting on the Italian referendum’s media coverage, Daniele Albertazzi takes issue with the scaremongering tone which has characterised much of the commentary, arguing that in spite of the country’s many problems, Italy is still capable of holding a referendum without bringing the whole European edifice down.

Arianna Giovannini, Laura Polverari and Antonella Seddone (2016). "Visions of Europe: Emerging challenges for the European project in the aftermath of the 2014 European Parliament elections". Italian Political Science Review, Vol. 46, Special Issue 2 (Special Issue: "The 2014 European Elections: Representation, Euroscepticism, Populism and the Economic Crisis"). 


In the current context, the European Union (EU) is facing a profound political crisis, especially in terms of leadership, legitimacy and purpose. This article offers an interpretative overview of these key dimensions of crisis. It does so by looking at the way in which they intersect, and at their impact on the EU’s institutional architecture, on the politicisation of the European public sphere, on the wider dynamics of representation that underpin these processes, and on the political systems and polities of the member states. Drawing on such analysis, we assess the 2014 European Parliament election, with reference to the findings of the six articles included in this collection. We conclude with a critical reflection on the competing and often piecemeal ‘visions of Europe’ that emerge from the studies in this volume, and the challenges they pose to the EU project.

** This special issue is edited by the above authors and draws from some of the papers presented at the IPSG conference 'The 2014 EP elections: Italian Politics and the European Challenge' which took place in January 2015 at the University of Strathclyde, and was hosted by the European Policies Research Centre, School of Government and Public Policy.


Luca Bernardi, Giulia Sandri, and Antonella Seddone. "Challenges of Political Participation and Intra-Party Democracy: Bittersweet Symphony from Party Membership and Primary Elections in Italy",  Acta Politica [advance online publication], 11 March 2016.

In this article, we explore the impact of intra-party democratisation processes on party membership. We analyse the opinions and attitudes of enrolled members on intra-party democracy instruments and on the use of open primaries. We investigate, with original data sets on Italy, the relationship between primaries and party members. How do enrolled members perceive internal democratisation and primaries? Which factors contribute to explaining grassroots members’ opinion on primaries? We use the case of the Italian Democratic Party (PD) to argue that different subsets of the party membership (divided into new-style and old-style members, on the basis of their relationship with the party and their participatory style) have different views on primaries. Quantitative analysis of survey data on party members reveals two main findings. Our first result is that members approve and positively assess the adoption of new procedures of intra-party democracy. Second, membership style matters: old-style members react to the adoption of primary elections differently than new-style members. Indeed, old-style members understand primaries as a renovated chance of participating in the party’s activities, whereas for new-style members primaries give the opportunity for a new mode of participation. Our findings contribute to the existing empirical research on intra-party democracy and party membership, and have important implications for the triangular link between parties, members and primaries.
DOI: 10.1057/ap.2016.4


Luciano M. Fasano and Antonella Seddone. "Selecting the leader, Italian style." Contemporary Italian Politics, 8:1, 2016, pp 83-102.

This article examines the promotion of open and direct procedures for selecting party leaders by focusing on the case of Italy. These inclusive procedures are presented as adaptive strategies adopted by political parties to deal with the deep-rooted anti-party sentiments that are spreading among citizens, and to enable them to re-connect with their own supporters, regardless of whether they are formally enrolled in the party or not. Even though these inclusive approaches serve to enhance the party’s image, their impact on the party organisation is often overlooked. In this regard, scholars have argued that the involvement of party members or external supporters in key decisions, such as candidate selection by primary elections, could lead to a weakening of the party organisation in favour of the strength of the party leader. This issue has to be carefully taken into account, especially in light of the personalisation of politics characterising Western democracies. Open approaches to selection of the party leader produce strong, direct connections between selectors and the candidates for party office, but they endanger the cohesion of the party organisation, diminish the role played by the party in central office and marginalise the party on the ground, whose voice is absorbed into a larger selectorate mainly composed of non-members. Taking the Italian Democratic Party (PD) as a case study, this article aims to understand the extent to which the introduction of such inclusive methods may affect the party organisation, by looking at the capacity of the party to mobilise supporters within and outside the party, and by looking at the relationship between the party and its members.


Giulia Sandri and Antonella Seddone (eds). The Primary Game: Primary elections in Italy. Rome: EPOKE Publishing, 2016.

The adoption of (open) primary elections can be considered one of the most relevant democratic innovations implemented by Italian parties in the last two decades. The PD has managed to introduce and then institutionalise this new participatory mechanism in a party system previously characterised by low levels of intra-party democracy. In this edited book we explore the functioning of primary election processes and assess their consequences at meso-level, on party organisational features, and at systemic level, on public debate, media coverage and electoral dynamics. What emerges from our analyses is primaries strengthen the participatory dimension of an electorally oriented party such as the PD, which is abandoning its (post) mass-membership party organisational features and is going towards more catch-all organisational features. However, primaries guarantee the stability of the relationship between grassroots members and the party as well as the viability of the PD’s organisational settings in the long run. Primary elections, as any political process, could bring unexpected results and even malfunctions, but their positive effects on the party and on the electoral dynamics, for the moment, exceed their shortcomings in the eye of both party elites and party members and voters.

James Newell. “Addressing the democratic crisis Italian style: The constitutional referendum of Matteo Renzi.”Political Insight. 7 July 2016. Web. 1 Sept. 2016.

James Newell. “First Brexit and David Cameron, Now a Referendum Could Claim Italy’s PM.” Newsweek Europe 2016: n.pag. Web. 1 Sept. 2016. Link:

James Newell. “Italy’s looming referendum is giving PM Matteo Renzi sleepless nights.” The Conversation. The Conversation, 15 Aug. 2016. 1 Sept. 2016.

James Newell. “Italy’s Looming Referendum Is Giving PM Matteo Renzi Sleepless Nights.” The Independent - Europe. Independent, 16 Aug. 2016. Web. 1 Sept. 2016.

James Newell. “Matteo Renzi’s election prospects: A work in progress.” LSE Blog. EUROPP, 24 May 2016. 

James Newell and Arianna Giovannini. “Brexit and Italian politics: parallels, warnings and impacts.” CONGRIPS. 12 July 2016. 1 Sept. 2016.


James Newell. “The Five Star Movement’s victories in Italy’s mayoral elections: A major blow for Renzi and the PD.” LSE Blog. EUROPP, 22 June 2016. 1 Sept. 2016.


Giulia Sandri and Fulvio Venturino. "Primaries at the Municipal Level: How, How Many and Why", Contemporary Italian Politics, 8:1, 2016, pp. 62-82.

In this article, we analyse the mayoral open primaries held from 2004 to 2015. We empirically assess their functioning and their effectiveness, especially in terms of competitiveness and turnout. We also explore the dynamics of diffusion of this instrument of intra-party democracy over time, across parties and across geographical areas. Moreover, we provide an exploratory account of the electoral consequences of mayoral primaries in terms of three dimensions of analysis: the type of municipality in which primaries are held, the features of the primary election contest, and the characteristics of the subsequent mayoral elections. Our results show that local primaries are characterised by two main features: they are fairly institutionalised, and a contagion effect across parties and geographical areas is emerging. In addition, they are quite competitive and our data show that, contrary to popular belief, external and/or more ideologically extreme candidates are less likely to win.


Daniele Albertazzi and Arianna Giovannini. "Surviving the perfect storm: Italy after the 2013 elections". Journal of Contemporary Italian Studies, 20:4, 2015, pp. 427-437 (Special Issue: "Italy after the 2013 elections").

This introduction sets the background for the analysis developed in this special issue. The focus is on the new developments that have emerged in the aftermath of the momentous 2013 general election, and the way in which these have impacted so far on the Italian political system and its main political actors.

**This special issue is edited by the above authors and draws on papers presented at thIPSG conference, '2013 Italian General Elections: Italian Politics at the Crossroads?', which was held at the University of Birmingham in Jan 2014.    


Daniele Albertazzi and James L. Newell. "Introduction: A mountain giving birth to a mouse? On the impact and legacy of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy". Modern Italy, 20, 2015, pp 3-10. (Special Issue: "Berlusconi's impact and legacy").

Love him or loathe him, Silvio Berlusconi is widely assumed to be Europe's most remarkable politician of recent decades, one who has not only affected the nature of electoral competition or the shape of the party system in Italy, but one who has influenced the country's political agenda to the extent that he himself and his role in politics have for long periods been the most important issues around which party competition has taken place.

Mark Donovan. "Berlusconi’s impact and legacy: political parties and the party system". Modern Italy, 20, 2015, pp 11-24 (Special Issue: "Berlusconi's impact and legacy").

Silvio Berlusconi impacted massively on Italy's party politics. He restructured the right via Forza Italia and the People of Freedom co-creating a bipolar party system whilst championing a radical personalisation of politics. The new party system appeared to rotate around him, creating an unusual version of ‘moderate pluralism’. Thus, whilst there was government alternation, there was also gladiatorial confrontation more typical of ‘polarised pluralism’. More effective as an electoral mobiliser than a government leader, Berlusconi's fourth government collapsed in the face of the 2011 economic crisis. His party, whose institutionalisation had been prevented by the extreme personalisation of his leadership, began to fall apart, whilst voter disillusion boosted support for a new party, the Five Star Movement. By 2014, it appeared that Berlusconi's major legacies were the rise of Matteo Renzi, the new Prime Minister and leader of the Democratic Party; his failure to construct an enduring, moderate conservative party; and the exceptional success of the Five Star Movement.


James L. Newell and Arianna Giovannini. The election of the new president has strengthened Matteo Renzi’s grip over Italian politics [blog]. London School of Economics’ EUROPP - European Politics and Policy blog: and Euro Crisis in the Press blog: 

Giulia Sandri and Stefano Braghiroli. "Religion at the European Parliament: the Italian case", in François Foret (ed.). Religion at the European Parliament and in European multi-level governance, London: Routledge, 2015, pp. 202-224.

Giulia Sandri and Antonella Seddone. "Sense or Sensibility? Voting motivations of party members and supporters of the Italian centre-left", Italian Political Science Review, 45:1, 2015, pp 25-513.

We consider the effect of primary elections on party membership and electoral behaviour. Direct democracy instruments trigger significant changes in the role and behaviour of grassroots members. The case of the Italian centre-left parties, and particularly the Democratic Party, is in this sense relevant, as for over a decade these parties have been reaching out to supporters in order to include them into decision-making processes, such as the selection of party leaders and candidates to legislative and executive offices. The distinction between members and supporters has blurred. The article focuses on voting behaviour and party attachment of three different groups of primary voters – namely, party members, supporters, and external voters. What is the difference between these three groups with regard to voting behaviour and motivations in primary elections? And what is the difference with regard to voting intentions in general elections? We examine these issues using original survey data collected in 2012 during the centre-left coalition’s primary elections. We highlight the consequences of the differences between members and supporters with regard to their voting behaviour and motivations.

Giulia Sandri and Antonella Seddone. "La versione del militante. Opinioni e giudizi sulle primarie PD", Quaderni di Scienza Politica, XXIII, no. 3/2015. 

Giulia Sandri, Antonella Seddone, and Giorgia Bulli. "Party membership in Italy", in Van haute E., Gauja, A. (eds.). Party membership and activism, London: Routledge, 2015, pp. 117-133.


Giulia Sandri, Antonella Seddone, and Fulvio Venturino (eds). Party Primaries in Comparative Perspective. London: Ashgate, 2015.

Primary elections for choosing party leaders and candidates are now becoming commonplace in Europe, Asia and America but questions as to how much they hinder a party’s organisational strength and cohesion or affect electoral performance have largely been ignored outside of the USA. Party Primaries in Comparative Perspective gives a much-needed conceptualisation to this topic, describing the function and nature of primary elections and providing a comparative analytical framework to the impact of primaries on the internal and external functioning of political parties. Elaborating on the analytical tools developed to study the US experience this framework engages with primary elections in Europe and Asia offering a theoretical, comparative and empirical account of the emergence of party primaries and an invaluable guide to internal electoral processes and their impact.


Antonella Seddone and Fulvio Venturino. "The Partito Democratico after the 2013 elections: all change?". Journal of Contemporary Italian Studies, 20:4, 2015, pp. 474-490 (Special Issue: "Italy after the 2013 elections").

This article analyses the changes that occurred within the Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party) from the fiasco of the general election in February 2013 until the European elections in May 2014, focusing in particular on the extent to which the presence of a new, distinctive type of leadership has contributed to such transformations. The first section describes the most relevant events affecting the party in the period considered, such as the failure to gain a parliamentary majority, the problematic re-election of Giorgio Napolitano as President of the Italian Republic, the transition from Pier Luigi Bersani to Matteo Renzi as party leader, and the transition from Enrico Letta to Renzi as Prime Minister. The following sections deal with questions of renewal in the party's organization, with an emphasis on the key role played by Matteo Renzi as the new leader. To achieve its goal and explain how the PD has changed in recent months, the article resorts to the well-known framework of the three party faces proposed by Katz and Mair.


James L. Newell, for the blog 'The Conversation':
- "EU election: first electoral test for new PM Renzi in Italy". 22 May 2014.
- "Italy’s best-ever shot at political reform is no sure thing". 27 March 2014.


James Newell and Arianna Giovannini. "Matteo Renzi’s transition to power is a gamble not just for his party, but for the Italian political system as a whole." [blog] London School of Economics’ EUROPP - European Politics and Policy blog. 

Giulia Sandri and Stefano Braghiroli (2014). "Religion at the European parliament: The Italian case", Religion, State & Society, 42:2-3, 2014, pp. 227-250.

Italy is a predominantly Catholic country that developed historically on the basis of a strong, dominant religion and weak state institutions. Yet, openly clerical parties, direct advocates of the interests of the Catholic Church, have nowadays virtually disappeared and the relevance of the religious cleavage is decreasing, in favour of a more indirect support for these interests, mainly among moderate and conservative forces. Although the overall level of secularisation in Italy has increased, the degree of religiosity of Italian society remains one of the highest of the 27 member-states of the European Union (EU) and polarisation over religious issues in domestic politics remains high, particularly regarding moral values and family matters. In our study we explore the role of religion within the Italian political sphere with regard to the functioning of political representation, by taking into account the sub-national, national and European levels of government. We focus on the attitudes and behaviours of Italian political elites at the EU level. We hypothesise a strong influence of religion on the articulation between national and European politics. Our findings consistently show that the degree of religiosity of the Italian delegation to the European Parliament (EP) is high. However, the impact of such a high degree of religiosity among the members of the EP (MEPs) on their political activities appears less direct than one might predict, while the degree of political secularism is higher among Italian MEPs than among their national or regional counterparts. When we discuss a case study, namely the accession of Turkey to the EU, our data show that the religious attitudes of Italian MEPs play a crucial role in their stance on Turkish accession. The picture that emerges is thus nuanced. Religion significantly impacts on Italian MEPs’ ideological, political and moral attitudes, but plays a smaller role in their activities; while their left-right collocation emerges as the most relevant predictor, despite a number of exceptions.


McDonnell, D. (2013) "Silvio Berlusconi's Personal Parties: From Forza Italia to the Popolo della Libertà", Political Studies, Vol. 61, Issue Supplement S1.

Despite the electoral success of Silvio Berlusconi's two political parties, little theoretical and empirical work has been done on Forza Italia (FI) and the Popolo Della Libertà (PDL – People of Freedom). This article aims to fill these gaps. Following a short overview of the history of FI and the PDL, it discusses how scholars have conceived of Forza Italia. Building on the criteria of Joseph La Palombara and Myron Weiner for the definition of a political party, a first operational definition is then offered of the term most used to classify FI and the PDL: the ‘personal party’. On the basis of this, the article considers whether the PDL is another personal party akin to Forza Italia. This is done, first, by briefly considering the party statute and communications and, second, by examining the views expressed in interviews conducted across Italy with PDL elected representatives and ordinary party members.

Keywords: political parties; personal party; party organisation; Italian politics; Silvio Berlusconi


James L. Newell. Berlusconi’s surrender over Enrico Letta’s confidence vote could spell the end of an era in Italian politics. [blog] London School of Economics’ EUROPP - European Politics and Policy blog, 7 October 2013.

James L. Newell and Arianna Giovannini, for the London School of Economics’ EUROPP - European Politics and Policy blog:
- "The election of Matteo Renzi as the leader of the PD might herald a ‘New Labour’ style revolution in Italy’s centre-left", 19 December 2013.
- "The PD’s leadership election might signal the first step in the re-legitimation of the Italian political system", 8 November 2013.


James L. Newell and Arianna Giovannini. In Questioni Primarie (publication of the Società Italiana di Scienza Politica standing group on Candidate and Leader Selection:
- "Il PD e le elezioni del suo prossimo leader – riflessioni da oltre Manica", 6 November 2013. 
- "Cronaca di un leader annunciato, col fattore B", 11 December 2013.  

Giulia Sandri, Mario Teló, and Luca Tomini (eds).  L'Etat de la démocratie en Italie. Bruxelles: Editions de l'Université de Bruxelles, 2013.

De 1945 à l’aube des années quatre-vingt-dix, l’Italie a fait figure de démocratie exceptionnelle en Europe et dans le monde : l’alternance politique n’y était pas de mise, le puissant parti communiste italien était en dehors du pouvoir et la démocratie chrétienne, perpétuellement aux affaires. Ce schéma s’est érodé au fil du temps avant d’exploser avec la chute du mur de Berlin mais, surtout, suite au déclenchement de l’opération Mani Pulite. En trois ans, le système politique s’est métamorphosé, les principaux partis dominants ont disparu, donnant naissance à un nouveau système partisan bipolaire, et l’on a pu parler d’une IIe République italienne, caractérisée par la personnalité controversée de Silvio Berlusconi.

Vingt ans plus tard pourtant, malgré l’alternance au gouvernement entre centre droit et centre gauche, et dans le cadre d’une interaction accrue avec l’Union monétaire, l’Italie fait encore et toujours la une de l’actualité. Elle semble se donner à voir comme l’Etat malade de l’Europe tant des points de vue politique et économique qu’en ce qui concerne la criminalité organisée. L’Italie sera-t-elle donc toujours singulière, exceptionnelle même, dans les régimes démocratiques ? Ou ne fait-elle qu’anticiper des tendances destinées à se généraliser ?  Telles sont les questions et la trame de cet ouvrage décisif sur le sujet.

Fruit d’une collaboration entre le Centre d’étude de la vie politique et l’Institut d’études européennes de l’Université libre de Bruxelles et la LUISS de Rome, le livre rassemble les contributions des meilleurs spécialistes internationaux de l’Italie dans ses différentes facettes.


Mario Teló, Giulia Sandri, Luca Tomini, and Jean-Michel De Waele (eds.). "The Crisis of Italian democracy in the European context", special issue of Comparative European Politics, 11:3, 2013, pp. 261-382.

Italy's economy and polity are considered to be continuously in turmoil. The recent multiplication of corruption affairs, the spreading of clientelistic practices, the internal economic crisis and the decline in the country's role on the European and international stages suggest that Italy is at a political and historical turning point. For the above stated reasons, it appears relevant to re-evaluate the state and quality of Italian democracy. On the basis of a comparative and interdisciplinary approach, this study aims to analyse the recent changes in Italian polity, economy and society in order to assess whether Italy can be considered as a ‘deviant case’ among European countries. In this article, we present a preliminary reflection on this research question and we outline the topics of concern that will be explored in this special issue. The first part of the article highlights the transformation of Italian democracy over the years with an emphasis on the persisting inconsistency between institutions and civil society. The second part of this article addresses the problem of the current political and economic crisis and the erosion of the democratic quality of Italian political and institutional settings. The third section addresses the question of whether Italy, in a comparative perspective, can be considered alternatively a ‘backward’ country in terms of democratic development, a political and institutional laboratory of future trends, an anomaly compared to other European democracies or, finally, a specific variation of common trends already characterising other European democracies.

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