Government Survival the Italian Way: the Core and the Advantages of Policy Immobilism during the First Republic

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Author: Luigi Curini

Published: European Journal of Political Research 50: 110–142 (2011)

During its nearly fifty years of history, the First Italian Republic has been characterised by the highest rate of cabinet turnover in Western Europe. There are several convincing explanations for this exceptional feature; nevertheless, merely looking at the average figure risks overlooking the variety in the Italian government experience. Focusing on the spatial determinants of Italian cabinet duration shows that the presence of a core party has a positive, albeit conditional, impact on government duration, largely depending on the degree of intra-cabinet conflict. Moreover, whenever the core is absent, the inability of cabinets to change the status quo appears to lengthen, rather than shorten, their duration. This outcome appears in line with works stressing the substantial policy immobilism of Italian governments throughout most of the postwar period. The analysis relies on a new dataset based on a coding of the investiture debates of all the Italian cabinets. This allows one to track the evolution of parties’ preferences in a policy space that can change between (rather than only across) elections. The results show the importance of in-depth case studies to better analyse some puzzles within the cabinet duration literature that might otherwise be averaged out in large-N comparative analysis.