Following his third election victory in 2008, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was the most controversial head of government in the EU. This is a cogent examination of the Berlusconi phenomenon, exploring the success and development of the new populist right-wing coalition in Italy since the collapse of the post-war party system in the early 1990s.
Carlo Ruzza and Stefano Fella provide a comprehensive discussion of the three main parties of the Italian right: Berlusconi's Forza Italia, the xenophobic and regionalist populist Northern League and the post-fascist National Alliance. The book assesses the implications of this controversial right for the Italian democratic system and examines how the social and political peculiarities of Italy have allowed such political formations to emerge and enjoy repeated electoral success.
Framed in a comparative perspective, the authors:
- explore the nature of the Italian right in the context of right-wing parties and populist phenomena elsewhere in other advanced democracies, drawing comparisons and providing broader explanations.
- locate the parties of the Italian right within the existing theoretical conceptions of right-wing and populist parties, utilising a multi-method approach, including a content analysis of party programmes.
- highlight the importance of political and discursive opportunities in explaining the success of the Italian right, and the agency role of a political leadership that has skilfully shaped and communicated an ideological package to exploit these opportunities.
Providing an excellent insight into a key European nation, this work provides a thoughtful and stimulating contribution to the research on the Italian right, and its implications for democratic politics.