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Christian Democracy (Democrazia Cristiana, DC) was a Christian-democratic party in Italy. It was founded in 1943 as the ideal successor of the Italian People's Party .

The DC, a catch-all party comprising both right-wing and left-wing factions, dominated the Politics of Italy for almost 50 years from 1944 until its demise amid a welter of corruption allegations in 1992–1994.

It was succeeded by several parties, including the Italian People's Party, the Christian Democratic Centre, the United Christian Democrats and the current Union of Christian and Centre Democrats. However, most former Christian Democrats are now affiliated to the centre-right The People of Freedom and the centre-left Democratic Party.


Early years

The party was founded as the revival of the tradition of the Italian People's Party (PPI), a political party created in 1919 by Luigi Sturzo, a Roman Catholic priest. The PPI won over 20% of the votes in the 1919 and 1921 elections, but was declared illegal by the Fascist regime in 1925 despite the presence of some Populars in Benito Mussolini's first government.

As World War II was ending, the Christian Democrats started organising post-Fascist Italy in coalition with all the other mainstream parties, including the Italian Communist Party (PCI), the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), the Italian Liberal Party (PLI), the Italian Republican Party (PRI), the Action Party (Pd'A) and the Labour Democratic Party (PDL). In December 1944 Christian Democrat Alcide De Gasperi was appointed Prime Minister of Italy.

In the 1946 general election, the first after World War II, the DC won 35.2% of the vote. Breaking decisively with its Communist and Socialist coalition partners in May 1947, the party went to win a decisive victory in 1948 general election with the support of the Church and the United Statesmarker. In that occasion the party won 48.5% of the vote, but, despite its absolute majority in the Italian Parliament, De Gasperi continued to govern at the head of a centrist coalition that included the Italian Workers' Socialist Party (PSLI), a 1947 spin-off of the PSI, the Liberals and the Republicans.

De Gasperi to Moro

From 1946 until 1994 the DC was the largest party in Parliament, governing in successive coalitions with the support of the Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI), the PLI, the PRI and, after 1963, the PSI. Basing its electoral majority largely on the Catholic countryside, the party moved from a originally liberal-conservative position to be actually a centre-left political force by European standards, despite some disbandaments to the right, such as the short-lived government led by Fernando Tambroni in 1960, relying on parliamentary support from the Italian Social Movement, the post-Fascist party.

The party's share of vote was always between 38 and 43% from 1953 to 1979. Since 1954 the party was led by progressive Christian Democrats, such as Amintore Fanfani, Aldo Moro and Benigno Zaccagnini, supported by the influent left-wing factions. Coalitions with the PSI became usual after the first centre-left government led by Moro in 1963 which saw the participation of the Socialists in key ministerial posts.

In 1978 the party was shocked by the abduction and murder of Aldo Moro, who had proposed a Historic Compromise with the PCI, by the Red Brigades. When Moro was abducted, the government, at the time led by Giulio Andreotti, immediately took a hardline position stating that the "State must not bend" on terrorist requests. This was a very different position from the one kept in similar cases before and was supported by all the mainstream parties, including the PCI, with the two notable exceptions of the PSI and the Radicals. It has been suggested that some politicians, especially Andreotti, a centre-right figure, took the chance of getting rid of a dangerous political competitor by sabotaging all of the rescue options and ultimately leaving the captors with no option but killing him. During his captivity Moro wrote a series of letters, at times very critical of Andreotti.

The Pentapartito

At the beginning of the 1980s the DC had lost part of its stranglehold over Italian voters. In 1981 the party Giovanni Spadolini (PRI) was the first non-Christian Democrat to lead a government since 1944, at the head of a coalition comprising the DC, the PSI, the PSDI, the PRI and the PLI, the so-called Pentapartito. In the successive 1983 general election the DC suffered one of its largest decreases in terms of votes so far, receiving only 32.5% of the vote cast (-5.8%). Subsequently Bettino Craxi (PSI) easily reclaimed for himself the post of Prime Minister, at the head of a Pentapartito.

The DC re-gained the post of Prime Minister in 1987, after a mild recovery in the 1987 general election (34.2%), and the Pentapartito coalition governed Italy almost continuously until 1993. While Italy experienced continuous economic progress in the 1980s, Italian economy was being undermined by constant devaluation of the Italian lira and emission of excessive amounts of high-interest treasury bonds, so that, between 1982 and 1992, the excessive budget deficit build half of the deficit still plaguing the country today.


In 1992 an investigation was started in Milanmarker, dubbed Mani pulite. It uncovered endemic corruption practices at the highest levels, causing many spectacular (and sometimes controversial) arrests and resignations. After the dismaying result in the 1992 general election (29.7%) and two years of mounting scandals (which included several Mafia investigations that touched notably Andreotti), the party was disbanded in 1994. In the 1990s most of the politicians prosecuted during those investigations were acquitted, sometimes however on the basis of legal formalities or on the basis of statutory time limit rules.

In January 1994 the last DC secretary Mino Martinazzoli decided to change the name of the party, which had suffered many defeats in 1993 provincial and municipal elections, into Italian People's Party. Pierferdinando Casini, representing the centre-right faction of the party (previously led by Forlani) decided to launch a new party called Christian Democratic Centre and to form an alliance with the Silvio Berlusconi's new party, Forza Italia. Some left-wing elements joined the Democratic Party of the Left through the Social Christians, while some right-wingers others joined National Alliance, however in 1994–2000 most Christian Democrats joined Forza Italia, which would have become the party with more ex-DC members in absolute terms.


The party's ideological sources are principally to be found in the Catholic social teaching, the Christian democratic doctrines developed from the 19th century and on (see Christian democracy), the political thought of Romolo Murri and Luigi Sturzo and ultimately in the tradition of the late Italian People's Party. Two Papal encyclicals, Rerum Novarum (1891) of Pope Leo XIII, and Quadragesimo Anno (1931) of Pope Pius XI, offered a basis for social and political doctrine.

In economy the DC preferred competition to cooperation, supported the model of social market economy and rejected the Marxist's idea of class struggle. The party was thus advocated collaboration between social classes and was basically a catch-all party which aimed to represent all Italian Catholics, both right-wing and left-wing, under the principle of the "political unity of Catholics" against socialism and communism. It ultimately represented the majority of Italian who were opposed to the Italian Communist Party. The party was however originally equidistant between the Communists and the hard right represented by the Italian Social Movement.

As a catch-all party, the DC differed from other European Christian Democratic parties, such as the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, that were mainly conservative parties, and comprised conservatives, as well as social-democratic and liberal elements. The party was thus divided in many factions and party life was characterized by factionalism and by the double adherence of members to the party and the factions, often identified with individual leaders.


The original liberal-conservative establishment of Alcide De Gasperi, Giuseppe Pella, Ezio Vanoni and Mario Scelba, was soon replaced by the progressives led by Amintore Fanfani. They were opposed to a right-wing whose main leader was Antonio Segni. The party's left-wing, originated by the left of the late Italian People's Party (Giovanni Gronchi, Achille Grandi and Fernando Tambroni), was reinforced by new elements such as Giuseppe Dossetti, Giorgio La Pira, Giuseppe Lazzati and Fanfani himself. Most of them were social democrats by European standards.

The party was often led by centrist figures unaffiliated to any faction such as Aldo Moro, Mariano Rumor (both closer to the centre-left) and Giulio Andreotti (closer to the centre-right). Moreover often, if the government was led by a centre-right Christian Democrat, the party was led by a left-winger and viceversa. This was what happened in the 1950s when Fanfani was party secretary and the government was led by centre-right figures such as Scelba and Segni and in the late 1970s when Benigno Zaccagnini, a progressive, led the party and Andreotti the government.

From the 1980s until 1992 the party was divided between the centre-right led by Arnaldo Forlani (supported also by the party's right-wing) and the centre-left led by Ciriaco De Mita (whose supporters included trade unionists and the internal left), with Andreotti holding the balance. De Mita, who led the party from 1982 to 1989, curiously tried to transform the party into a mainstream "conservative party" in line with the European People's Party in order to preserve party unity. He was replaced by Forlani in 1989, after that he had become Prime Minister in 1988. The disagreements between De Mita and Forlani resulted in a return of Andreotti as Prime Minister from 1989 to 1992.

With the fall of the Berlin Wallmarker, the end of great ideologies and ultimately the Tangentopoli scandals, the heterogeneous nature of the party led it to its collapse. The bulk of the DC joined the new Italian People's Party (PPI), but immediately several centre-right elements led by Pier Ferdinando Casini joined the Christian Democratic Centre (CCD), while others directly joined Forza Italia. A split from the PPI, the United Christian Democrats (CDU), joined Forza Italia and the CCD in the centre-right Pole of Freedoms coalition, while the PPI was a founding member of The Olive Tree centre-left coalition in 1996. Today former Christian Democrats are divided between The People of Freedom, the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats and the Democratic Party.

Popular support

In its early years the party was stronger in Northern Italy, and especially in western Lombardy and Veneto, due to the strong Catholic roots of that areas, than in the South, where the Liberal establishment that had governed Italy for decades before the rise of Benito Mussolini had still a grip on voters, as also the Monarchists and the Uomo Qualunque Front did. The DC was very weak in Emilia-Romagna and Central Italy, where the Italian Communist Party was the dominant political force.

In the 1948 general election the party had its best result ever (48.5% and the absolute majority in the Italian Parliament. The party won 66.8% in western Lombardy (73.6% in the Province of Bergamo), 60.5% in Veneto (71.9% in the Province of Vicenza), 69.6% in Trentino and 57.8% in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, that is to say where the late Italian People's Party had its strongholds. In the Centre-South the DC gained more than 50% of the vote in Lazio (51.9%), Abruzzo (53.7%) and Campania (50.5%).

Since the late 1950s the DC started to move South and by the 1980s it was stronger in the South than in the North, let alone Veneto, that remained one of the party's strongholds. In the 1983 general election suffered a dramatic decrease in term of votes and its electoral geography was very different from 30 or even 10 years before, as the region where it obtained the best result was Apuliamarker (46.0%).

In 1992 the shift was even more evident as the party was over 40% only in some Southern regions (41.1% in Campania, 44.5 in Basilicata and 41.2% in Sicily), while it barely reached 20-25% of the vote in the North. As a result of the rise of Lega Nord, which was stronger precisely in the traditional Christian Democratic heartlands, the DC was reduced to 21.0% in Piedmont (with the League at 16.3%), 32.1% in western Lombardy (League at 25.2%), 31.7% in Veneto (League at 17.3%) and 28.0% in Friuli-Venezia Giulia (League at 17.0%).

As the DC's role was ended, the 1919 PPI strongholds and the DC's traditional heartlands were to become Lega Nord's power base, while the successor parties of the DC continued to be key political actors only in the South, where the clientelistic way of government practised by the Christian Democrats and their allies had left a mark. In the 1996 general election gained 7 out of 8 single-seat constituencies in the Province of Bergamo and 5 out of 6 in the Province of Vicenza, winning well over 40%, while the combined score of the three main post-DC parties (the new PPI, the CCD and the CDU) was highest in Campania (22.3%). In the 1996 Sicilian regional election the combined score of those parties was 26.4%.


Having ruled Italy for over 40 years with no alternative other than the Italian Communist Party, DC members had ample opportunity to abuse their power, and undoubtedly some did. In the 1960s scandals involved frauds such as huge illegal profits in the administration of banana import quotas, preferential allocation of purposely misprinted (and, therefore, rare) postage stamps. Giovanni Leone was forced to resign as President of the Italian Republic in 1978, after a scandal involving Lockheed aeroplanes. He was later acquitted.

The party was also invested, like the other parties of the Pentapartito, in the Tangentopoli scandals and in the subsequent Mani pulite. Moreover, as in the 1970s and the 1980s Southern Italy had become the party's stronghold, it was likely that Mafia and dishonest politicians may try to collaborate. That was why, among the government parties, the DC was the most associated with Mafia in the popular opinion. Leaders as Antonio Gava, Calogero Mannino, Vito Ciancimino, Salvo Lima and especially Giulio Andreotti were perceived by many to belong to a gray zone between simple corruption and mafia business, even if most of them were later acquitted.


Secretaries since 1943:

Presidents since 1965:


  2. Piergiorgio Corbetta; Maria Serena Piretti, Atlante storico-elettorale d'Italia, Zanichelli, Bologna 2009

External links


  • Massimo L. Salvadori, Enciclopedia storica, Zanichelli, Bolognamarker 2000
  • Igino Giordani, De Gasperi, il ricostruttore, Cinque Lune, Romemarker 1955
  • Giulio Andreotti, De Gasperi e il suo tempo, Mondadori, Milanmarker 1956
  • Gianni Baget Bozzo, Il partito cristiano al potere: la DC di De Gasperi e di Dossetti 1945–1954, Vallecchi, Florencemarker 1974
  • Gianni Baget Bozzo, Il partito cristiano e l'apertura a sinistra: la DC di Fanfani e di Moro 1954–1962, Vallecchi, Florencemarker 1977
  • Pietro Scoppola, La proposta politica di De Gasperi, Il Mulino, Bologna 1977
  • Nico Perrone, Il segno della DC, Dedalo, Barimarker 2002 ISBN 88-220-6253-1
  • Luciano Radi, La DC da De Gasperi a Fanfani, Rubbettino, Soveria Mannellimarker 2005

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