Partito Popolare Italiano

Partito Popolare Italiano
Italian People’s Party (PPI).
   The PPI was founded by Don Luigi Sturzo in January 1919 with the blessing of Pope Benedict XV. The decision to found a mass party open to non-Catholics and, theoretically, independent of the Church hierarchy was the product of the Vatican’s growing alarm at the strength of the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI) after 1918. At the PPI’s First Congress in June 1919, Don Sturzo outlined a progressive program that emphasized the need to defend the family; to extend education, welfare, and pensions to create a social safety net; to increase the nation’s productive powers and divide the nation’s wealth more equitably; and to work for peace in the world. The PPI also asked for proportional representation, an elected Senate, and women’s suffrage. Proportional representation was in fact introduced in August 1919. The PPI obtained 1.2 million votes in the November 1919 elections, securing 20.5 percent of the total, making it the second-largest group in Parliamentafter the PSI. By the next spring, the party had 250,000 members and took part in Giovanni Giolitti’slast government (June 1920–July 1921). It did not join the antisocialist blocco nazionale that was liberal Italy’s lastditch effort to retain its hold on power. In the general elections of May 1921, the PPI repeated its 1919 result and subsequently had three ministers in the cabinet formed by Ivanoe Bonomi. At the party’s Third Congress in October 1921 an attempt by the leader of the party’s left to commit the PPI to noncooperation with the Fascists was rejected. The leadership underestimated the threat posed by Benito Mussolini. The PPI in fact entered the government formed after Mussolini’s coup in October 1922. At the PPI’s Fourth Congress in April 1923, the leadership’s position toward Fascism, as sustained by the head of its parliamentary group, Alcide De Gasperi, was clarified as one of “conditional collaboration”—support for the government so long as it kept within constitutional boundaries. This was not enthusiastic enough for one delegate, who declared that Italy should “thank divine providence for sending her a man like Mussolini.” The PPI split over the 1923 Acerbo Law, with most of the party abstaining but a small minority voting in favor. Before the vote, Don Sturzo had been pressured into resigning as leader by the Vatican, which was worried that his continuance in office would wreck relations with Mussolini. In the elections of March 1924, the PPI, fighting on an openly antifascist platform, obtained 650,000 votes (9 percent) and 39 deputies. These results made it the largest opposition party. After the poll, the PPI chose De Gasperi as its new leader. Under his direction, the PPI took a prominent role in the boycott of Parliament that followed the murder of Giacomo Matteotti. The PPI’s deputies attempted to retake their seats in the Chamber in January 1926 but were physically ejected by the Fascist members. The party was suppressed in November 1926. Its leaders were mostly allowed to live an unmolested life and made no attempt to set up a clandestine organization. In January 1994, the rump of the scandal-hit Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy (DC) renamed the party the PPI in a bid to recall the original Christian democratic movement. The party nevertheless did very poorly in the March 1994 elections. After the elections it chose Rocco Buttiglione to be its leader, but his divisive strategy caused the party to split in March 1995. The revived PPI merged with supporters of Romano Prodi to form Democrazia e Liberta(also known, after its electoral symbol, as the Margherita, or daisy). Democrazia e Liberta is the second-largest component of the Unione/Union, the governing coalition narrowly elected in April 2006.
   See also Papacy; Rerum Novarum.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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