Italy’s Constitution was drafted by the Constituent Assembly between July 1946 and December 1947. It became law on 1 January 1948. It has proved to be a remarkably durable document that has been little amended.
   The Constitution was a compromise between the two principal parties of the left, the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI) with the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy (DC). The DC allowed the Constitution to contain articles whose values reflected the progressive social goals of the leftist parties in return for an article (art. 7) that constitutionalized the Lateran pacts and for institutions that imposed strong checks and balances on the power of the majority in the Chamber of Deputies.
   Thus, key articles of the first half of the Constitution recognize the role of the working class in Italy (art. 1 proclaims that “Italy is a Republic founded upon labor”) and the right to strike. Concentrations of economic power are limited while emphasis is put on the need for land reform. Other social rights include “obligatory and free” education for eight years; article 34 states that even those who lack financial means “have a right to reach the highest possible level of studies.” Every worker is entitled to pay reflective of the “quality and quantity” of his or her work but in any case, “adequate to ensure for himself and his family a free and dignified existence.” He or she is also entitled to a day off per week, a right that may not be renounced. Female workers have “the same rights and, in the same job, the same pay as the male worker.” Moreover, working conditions must allow that the woman’s “essential familial function be fulfilled and assure to the mother and child special and adequate protection.” The Constitution was a major breakthrough for the equality of women in Italy. The secretary of the PCI, Palmiro Togliatti, was convinced that the social transformation of Italy would be brought about incrementally through the electoral strength of the PCI and its allies. In 1948, a workers’republic by parliamentary means did not seem entirely out of the question. In the event, however, a 1948 judgment of the Court of Cassation ruled that the progressive aspirations of the Constitution were merely “programmatic” and need not be actuated immediately. This judgment ensured that many of the Constitution’s provisions remained a dead letter.
   The institutions of the Italian Republic were arranged to ensure that strong government was impossible. Executive power is diluted by ensuring that neither the president of the Republic nor the president of the Council of Ministers (prime minister) can set the government agenda and exercise independent power. For the legislature, the principle of perfect bicameralism was followed. This means that the government must command a majority in both chambers and that both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies must pass all legislation for it to become law. The Constitution also provided for the possibility of popular abrogative referendums to cancel laws regarded as unjust by a strong current of public opinion. Legislation enabling referendums was passed only in the 1970s, but since then Italy has been one of the democracies that has made most use of the referendum instrument. The Constitution also abolished the death penalty except in times of war and repudiated war as an instrument of resolving international disputes. One result of this has been that all commitments of troops that are not on missions explicitly sanctioned by the United Nations (and even some that are) are the source of huge political controversy.
   See also: Electoral Laws; Parliament.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.


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