Personalistic Leadership, Party Politics, and the Quality of Democracy: The Case of Italy

16 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2012 Last revised: 31 Jul 2012

See all articles by Gianfranco Pasquino

Gianfranco Pasquino

University of Bologna; Johns Hopkins University - Bologna Center

Date Written: July 26, 2012


Italian political history is not characterized by the appearance of major political leaders. Only exceptionally have few leadership figures, such as the Risorgimento hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, played a significant and widely praised role. Others, especially Benito Mussolini, have characterized an authoritarian regime, therefore contributing to the general distrust of powerful leaders. This paper explores which have been and are the cultural and institutional obstacles to the emergence of powerful leaders. The most important cultural obstacle can be found in the widely shared anti-political sentiment. In the post-Second World War period, the prevailing attitude of dislike of strong leaders was jointly exhibited by both major parties, the Christian Democrats and the Communists. This dislike was institutionalized in the Italian Constitution that provides for a traditional model of weak parliamentary government. In spite of Silvio Berlusconi’s emphasis on his personal leadership qualities, or perhaps exactly because of his extreme personalization, distrust toward possibly dominant political leaders remains widespread. Its consequences do not seem to be positive for the quality of Italian democracy.

Keywords: leadership, personalization, tyrant, parliamentary government, quality of democracy

Suggested Citation

Pasquino, Gianfranco, Personalistic Leadership, Party Politics, and the Quality of Democracy: The Case of Italy (July 26, 2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Gianfranco Pasquino (Contact Author)

University of Bologna ( email )

Piazza Scaravilli 2
Bologna, 40100

Johns Hopkins University - Bologna Center ( email )

Via Belmeloro 11
40126 Bologna

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