Partito Liberale Italiano

Italian Liberal Party (PLI).
   Formed in 1943, the PLI occupied a minority position on the right of the Italian political spectrum until the political scandals of the 1990s brought about the party’s dissolution. Its early leaders included Luigi Einaudi and Benedetto Croce, who was elected president of the party in 1946 and was made its president for life in 1947. In November 1945, the PLI colluded with Alcide De Gasperi to bring down the government of Ferruccio Parri, which the Liberals regarded as ineffectual. The PLI in this period was split between a relatively progressive wing, which was willing to countenance some measure of social and agricultural reform, state regulation of industry, and a republican form of government, and a conservative faction that was prepared to back none of these things. The conservatives were numerically stronger, and the party consequently saw many of its most gifted leaders, notably Manlio Brosio, leave to join the Partito Repubblicana Italiano/Italian Republican Party (PRI). In June 1946, the PLI fought the elections in the company of a cluster of survivors from prefascist Italy; together they took just under 7 percent of the vote. In 1948, the party was allied with Uomo Qualunque but obtained less than 4 percent of the ballots cast. The PLI’s showing in 1948, in fact, set a precedent that would be repeated until the 1980s: Whenever the threat from the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI) seemed strong, the PLI would lose votes to the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC); when the DC was riding high, the prosperous uppermiddle-class professionals who constituted the PLI’s main base of support resumed their backing for the PLI.
   Apart from a brief spell in government in 1954–1955, and again in 1972–1973, the PLI’s hostility to state ownership and to the creation of the welfare state kept it out of government until 1981. For most of this period, the PLI was led by a highly respected economist, Giovanni Malagodi. The PLI’s peak electoral performance came in 1963, when it obtained 7 percent of the votes and 39 deputies in the Chamber.
   Despite its conservative economic credentials, the PLI was progressive on social issues. It strongly backed divorceand campaigned vigorously to protect the 1970 law instituting divorce rights from a DC-led referendum in 1974. At the end of the 1970s, the PLI began to tilt toward cooperation with the DC, but the PLI’s access was blocked by the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI). The necessity of forming a solid majority eventually led to the formation of the five-party coalition called the pentapartito. The PLI—which by the 1980s could count upon little more than 2 percent of the vote—played a subordinate role in the governments it entered. Nevertheless, several of its chief figures became enmeshed in the bribery scandals of 1992–1993. In the 1994 elections, the party split, with some leading members siding with the center-left and others forming a new party called the Unione di Centro/Center Union, which allied itself with media entrepreneur Silvio Berlusconi.
   See also Qualunquismo.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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