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Paolo Bellucci and Martin Bull

In May 2001, for the first time in the history of united Italy and,

therefore, for the first time in the history of the Italian Republic,

alternation in government occurred as a direct consequence of an

electoral victory of the opposition. The incumbent centre left government

(the Ulivo – Olive Tree Coalition, led by Francesco

Rutelli) was defeated, and a centre right coalition (the Casa delle

Libertà, or CDL – House of Freedoms, led by Silvio Berlusconi)

began governing Italy with a large parliamentary majority.

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Paolo Bellucci and Martin Bull

The defeat of the Olive Tree Coalition (Ulivo), led by the former

Mayor of Rome, Francesco Rutelli, in the May 2001 general election

had a considerable impact on the trajectory of the centre left,

notably with regard to its two principal ‘legs’ – the Democrats of

the Left (DS) and the Margherita (Daisy) – and on the debate over

how the Ulivo should develop as a coalition in the future. Yet if the

electoral defeat was meant to galvanise the coalition and press on

it the urgency of the need for unity, external events exposed the

continuing fragility and division in the centre left, raising significant

questions about its viability as a coherent force. This chapter,

after briefly outlining the nature of the electoral defeat of May

2001, assesses the subsequent course of the coalition’s two main

constituents, before concluding with an assessment of the

prospects for the Ulivo as a whole.

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Martin J. Bull

On 25–26 June 2006—the 60th anniversary of the Constituent Assembly’s

commencement of its work drafting the Italian Constitution (25

June 1946)—a referendum was held that called on the Italian people

to accept or reject a package of proposals that had been passed by the

center-right majority in November 2005 and that promised to rewrite

radically a substantial part of that document. Following the national

elections (April), local elections (May), and (parliamentary) election of

the president of the Republic (May), the referendum was, in many ways,

an electoral appointment that was one too many, as was evidenced in

a lackluster campaign by the parties. This is ironic because it could be

regarded as the most significant consultation of Italian voters for many

years. In any event, the voters delivered a decisive verdict, rejecting by

a large majority the proposals for constitutional revision.

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Renzi Removed

The 2016 Italian Constitutional Referendum and Its Outcome

Martin J. Bull

The referendum of 4 December 2016 on Renzi’s proposed constitutional reform was the most significant in Italy since the referendum that rejected Berlusconi’s proposal in 2006. The 2016 outcome was more dramatic than its predecessor as it resulted in the resignation of the prime minister, who was succeeded in the office by Paolo Gentiloni. The referendum campaign was less concerned with the merits of the reform itself than with delivering an electoral verdict on the Renzi government. This was caused partly by Renzi himself, who declared that he would resign if the referendum failed, and partly by the inevitable partisanship of much of the voting and the influence of populist parties, which tapped into the dissatisfaction that many Italian voters felt. With two popular rejections of “great reform” proposals in the space of a decade, the future of institutional reform on such a grand scale is now in doubt.