The Italian premiership after Berlusconi: A limited legacy
The fall of Silvio Berlusconi’s last government in 2011 and the financial crisis and drastic measures implemented by Mario Monti’s technical government anticipated a real electoral earthquake in 2013. Political parties faced a new phase of crisis and change, confirmed in the elections of 2018. This crisis weakened the political institutions, starting from the head of the executive, who found themselves in increasing difficulty in relation to their parliamentary majority. Since then, from the point of view of the role of the prime minister, the personalisation of politics has continued, while the presidentialisation process - as we knew it during the “Berlusconi Era” - seems to have changed. The power of prime ministers without a party, in a widespread climate of institutional impatience, more often finds outlets in the legislative and organisational instruments of the presidency of the Council of Ministers than in populist strategies or technocratic resources. This article analyses the seven executives that followed the crisis of Silvio Berlusconi’s last government in 2011. In particular, it focuses on the management of the presidency of the Council through the use of Prime Ministerial Decrees (DPCMs) and then cross-references this process with two important dimensions inherited from the process of the personalization and presidentialisation of politics: party leadership and populist discursive strategy. All of the prime ministers that followed Berlusconi lacked (and one of them lost) a significant feature of presidentialisation: party leadership. This article shows that some premiers have made up for this shortcoming by resorting to populist discourse or by asking the technocracy for help. But Berlusconi’s real legacy, that all of his successors have shared, is the attempt to strengthen the executive through the autonomous and personalized management of the PM’s Office. This part of the legacy is definitely important, but not sufficient for a successful premiership today.
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