Partito Repubblicano Italiano

Italian Republican Party (PRI)
   Officially founded in April 1895 (though the party’s roots can be traced back to Giuseppe Mazzini and the various political movements that he inspired), the PRI was little more than a parliamentary fringe group when BenitoMussolinitook power. Banned during the dictatorship, the PRI was active in the resistance to Fascism, although its antimonarchist principles prevented it from taking part in the Comitati di Liberazione Nazionale/National Liberation Committees (CLN) after Italy’s surrender to the Allies on 8 September 1943. The PRI was reborn as an organized party in 1946. It obtained 4 percent of the vote in the elections to the Constituent Assembly and was subsequently strengthened when Ferruccio Parri and Ugo La Malfa, and former Partito Liberale Italiano/Italian Liberal Party (PLI) leader Manlio Brosio, joined the party.
   The PRI’s policy stance in this period was founded on a progressive attitude toward social and economic reform and hostility to the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI). This stance made the PRI a natural ally for Alcide De Gasperi, who— despite the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party’s (DC) narrow overall majority in the Chamber of Deputies in the May 1948 elections—included the PRI in all his governments. PRI ministers held such portfolios as foreign affairs, defense, and foreign trade at various times and thus enjoyed an influence on national policy out of all proportion to their electoral support. In 1953, the PRI split after the party majority backed the DC’s attempt to introduce the socalled Legge truffa (swindle law). Ferruccio Parri and the party’s left wing deserted the PRI in protest and formed a new group, Unita popolare (Popular Unity), which campaigned against the new law and was decisive in denying the DC the majority it needed to put the law’s provisions into effect. The PRI’s share of the vote sank to just 1.6 percent in 1953.
   Chastened by this experience and by the DC’s rightward move after the death of De Gasperi, the PRI played no further governmental role until 1962. Under the leadership (from 1965) of Ugo La Malfa, the PRI acted as the critical conscience of the center-left during the 1960s and 1970s, speaking out against the political parties’increasing power over the institutions of the Italian state and arguing vehemently for social reforms such as divorceand abortion. La Malfa, after a contentious spell as treasury minister during the 1973 oil shock became vice premier during the 1974–1976 administration of Aldo Moro. La Malfa died in 1979. His place was taken by Giovanni Spadolini, who argued that the PRI was capable of providing political leadership, not just moral tone, to Italian government. In the 1983 elections, the PRI’s electoral support was its best ever—5.1 percent. Yet despite the generally high quality of the PRI’s ministerial appointees in the 1980s, the party became a powerless spectator as the DC and the PSI struggled for power and patronage. Eventually, in April 1991, the party secretary, Ugo La Malfa’s son Giorgio, pulled the PRI out of the governing coalition. The PRI was the cleanest party of government in the first Italian Republic, although it did not emerge unscathed from the bribery scandals in 1992–1993. Still led by Giorgio La Malfa, the PRI has supported both the Olive Tree Coalition and Silvio Berlusconi since the mid-1990s, but by now it is a mere shadow of its former self.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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