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The Democratic Party (Partito Democratico, PD) is a centre-left political party in Italy.

It was founded on 14 October 2007 as a merger of various left-wing and centrist parties which were part of the The Union in the 2006 general election. Several parties merged into the Democratic Party, however its bulk was formed by the Democrats of the Left and Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy.

The first leader of the party was Walter Veltroni, who was elected secretary in an open primary. After leading the party to a number of electoral defeats, the latest being in the 2009 Sardinian regional election, Veltroni resigned as leader on 17 February 2009. The Constituent Assembly subsequently convened on 21 February 2009 and elected Dario Franceschini as the new secretary. On 25 October 2009 Franceschini lost the leadership election to Pier Luigi Bersani.


The Olive Tree

In the early 1990s, following Tangentopoli, the end of the so-called First Republic and the disbandment of the Italian Communist Party, a process started which aimed to join the moderate left-wing forces of Italian politics into a single political entity. This process caused the entering of Romano Prodi (formerly close to the left-wing of the Christian Democrats) into national politics and the creation of the The Olive Tree, a centre-left coalition including: the Democratic Party of the Left, the Italian People's Party, the Federation of the Greens, Italian Renewal, the Italian Socialists, Democratic Union. The coalition, allied with the Communist Refoundation Party, won the 1996 general election.

Logo of The Olive Tree

Later steps transformed the Democratic Party of the Left into the Democrats of the Left, with the merging of other centre-left parties, in 1998 and centrists in the coalition to form Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy, in 2002. This was born by the merger of the Italian People's Party, The Democrats, launched by Romano Prodi in 1999 with a centre-left platform, and Italian Renewal. In the 2001 general election these three parties, alongside with UDEUR Populars, formed an electoral alliance under the leadership of Francesco Rutelli, then Prime Ministerial candidate for The Olive Tree coalition, and then transformed it into a single centrist party, without the participation of UDEUR Populars.

In the summer of 2003, Romano Prodi suggested that the centre-left forces participate in the 2004 European Parliament election with a common list. Whereas the UDEUR Populars and the far left parties refused the offer, four parties accepted it: the Democrats of the Left, Democracy is Freedom, the Italian Democratic Socialists and the European Republicans Movement. They launched a joint-list named "United in the Olive Tree" which ran in the election, scoring 31.1% nationally. The project was later abandoned in 2005 by the Italian Democratic Socialists, which preferred to run in an alliance, the Rose in the Fist, with the Italian Radicals. In the 2006 general election, the Olive Tree list ran only for the Chamber of Deputies, obtaining 31.3%.

Road to the new party

The 2006 election result, together with the success of the 2005 centre-left primary election, in which over four million voters formally endorsed Prodi as Prime Minister candidate, gave a push to the project of a unified centre-left party. Since then, Francesco Rutelli and Piero Fassino, party leaders of Democracy is Freedom and the Democrats of the Left, scheduled their party conventions for April 2007 in order to formally approve the merger.

On 19 April 2007 the Democrats of the Left held their last party congress, since approximately 75% of party members voted in support of the creation of the Democratic Party as soon as possible, while the left-wing minority, led by Minister Fabio Mussi and opposed to the project, obtained circa 15% of the support within the party. A third motion, presented by Gavino Angius and supportive of the Democratic Party only within the Party of European Socialists, obtained 10% of votes. During and following the Democrats of the Left national convention, both Mussi and Angius announced their intention not to join the Democratic Party and founded a new leftist party called Democratic Left more keen on uniting the far left under a united banner. This ultimately led Angius to abandon the new party in favour of the creation of a much moderate social-democratic party with the Italian Democratic Socialists, the Socialist Party.

On 22 May 2007 the list of members of the Organizing Committee of the Democratic Party was announced: it featured 45 politicians, mainly from the two major parties involved in the process, but also including external figures such as Marco Follini, Ottaviano Del Turco, Luciana Sbarbati, Renato Soru, Giuliano Amato, Gad Lerner and Tullia Zevi. On 18 June the Committee met to decide the rules for the open election of the 2,400 members of the Constituting Assembly. Prodi announced each voter would have chosen between a number of lists, each of them associated with a candidate leader; the assembly would then have elected the first leader in a Founding Convention, scheduled on 14 October.

The parties which agreed to merge into the PD were eight:

Party foundation

All candidates interested in running for the Democratic Party leadership must have presented at least 2,000 valid signatures not later than 30 July 2007 and be associated with one of the parties and associations forming the PD.

On the 30 July deadline, a total of ten candidates officially registered their candidacy: Walter Veltroni, Rosy Bindi, Enrico Letta, Furio Colombo, Marco Pannella, Antonio Di Pietro, Mario Adinolfi, Pier Giorgio Gawronski, Jacopo Gavazzoli Schettini, Lucio Cangini and Amerigo Rutigliano. Of these, Pannella and Di Pietro were stopped because of their involvement in external parties, whereas Cangini and Rutigliano did not manage to present the necessary 2,000 valid signatures for the 9pm deadline, and Colombo's candidacy was instead made into hiatus in order to give him 48 additional hours to integrate the required documentation; Colombo later decided to retire his candidacy citing his impossibility to fit with all the requirements. All rejected candidates had the chance against the decision in 48 hours' time, with Pannella and Rutigliano being the only two candidates to appeal against it. Both were rejected on 3 August.

On 14 October 2007 Veltroni was elected leader with circa 75% of the national votes in an open primary attended by over three million voters. Veltroni was officially crowned as first Democratic Party secretary during the founding constituting assembly held in Milanmarker on 28 October 2007.

On 21 November, the new logo was unveiled; it depicts the party acronym (PD) with colours reminiscent of the Italian tricolour flag (green, white and red) and featuring also the olive branch, historical symbol of the Olive Tree. In the words of Ermete Realacci, green represents the ecologist and social-liberal cultures, white is for the Catholic solidarity and red for the socialist and social-democratic traditions.

Walter Veltroni (2007–2009)

After the premature fall of Prodi II Cabinet in January 2008, the party decided run in the next election alone or at the head of a less diverse coalition. The party proposed to the Radicals and the Socialist Party to join its lists, but only the Radicals accepted, while forming an alliance with Italy of Values (IdV), under the promise that that party would have joined the PD after the election. The party included many notable candidates and new faces in its lists and Walter Veltroni, who tried to present the PD as the party of the renewal in contrast both with Silvio Berlusconi and the previous centre-left government, ran an intense and modern campaign, which led him to visit all provinces of Italy, but that was not enough.

In the 2008 general election the PD–IdV coalition won 37.5% of the vote and was defeated by the centre-right coalition, composed of The People of Freedom, Lega Nord and the Movement for Autonomy (46.8%). The PD was able to absorbe some votes from the parties of the far left (as also IdV did), but lost some voters to the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats (UDC), ending up with 33.2% of the vote, 217 deputies and 119 senators. After the election Veltroni, who was anyway gratified by the result, formed a shadow cabinet, including most party leading figures. IdV, excited by its 4.4% which made it the fourth largest party in Parliament, refused to join both the Democratic groups in Parliament and the shadow cabinet.

The early months after the elections were someway difficult for the PD and Veltroni himself, whose leadership was weakened by the growth of internal factions, because of the popularity of Berlusconi and the dramatic rise of IdV, which sometimes openly criticized the PD, in opinion polls. IdV became a strong competitor of the PD and the relations between the two parties became tense. In the run-up to the regional election in Abruzzo, where IdV, whose leader Antonio Di Pietro comes from neighbouring Molise, is expected to make gains, PD later agreed to support IdV candidate Carlo Costantini. In October 2008 Veltroni, who distanced from Di Pietro many times, declared that "on some issues he [Di Pietro] is distant from the democratic language of the centre-left".

On 25 October the Democratic Party held its first national rally at Circo Massimomarker, Romemarker, to protest against Silvio Berlusconi's cabinet policy. The organizing committee declared over 2.5 million people attended the rally.

In February 2009, after a crushing defeat in the Sardinian regional election, Walter Veltroni resigned as party secretary and was replaced by his deputy Dario Franceschini on an interim basis to guide the party to a new congress and the election of a new leader.

After a series of electoral defeats for the Democratic Party, Secretary Walter Veltroni resigned in February 2009. The Constituent Assembly of the party convened on 21 February 2009 to choose a new leader and appointed Dario Franceschini Secretary with 1,047 votes out of 1,258. His only opponent Arturo Parisi won just 92 votes.

The 2009 European Parliament election was considered an important test for the Democratic Party. Prior to the confirmation of a new electoral law containing a threshold of 4%, the Democratic Party considered offering hospitality to the Socialist Party and the Greens in its lists, and proposed a similar pact to Democratic Left. However, the Socialists, the Greens and Democratic Left decided instead to contest the election together as Left and Freedom, which failed to achieve the 4% threshold required to return any MEPs. The Democratic Party itself gained 26.1% of votes, returning 21 MEPs.

2009 leadership race

Following the European Parliament election it was confirmed that the party convention was to be held in October and it would have been followed by a primary election in compliance with the party constitution. By July three candidates announced their bid: Pier Luigi Bersani, Ignazio Marino and Dario Franceschini.

On 8 October 2009 the party's electoral commission released the results of the vote among party members. In the local congresses a 56.4% of party members got out and vote. Bersani was by far the most voted candidate with 55.1% of the vote, largely ahead of Franceschini (37.0%) and Marino (7.9%).

On 25 October 2009 Bersani was elected new secretary of the party in a open primary that saw the participation of three million people by receiving about 53% of the vote. Franceschini got 34% and Marino 13%. On 7 November, during the first meeting of the new national assembly, Bersani was declared secretary, Rosy Bindi was elected party president (with Marina Sereni and Ivan Scalfarotto vice-presidents), Enrico Letta deputy-secretary and Antonio Misiani treasurer.

In reaction to the election of Bersani, perceived by some centrists as an old-style social democrat, Francesco Rutelli, a long-time critic of the party's course, left in order to form a new centrist party, named Alliance for Italy, along with Linda Lanzillotta, Gianni Vernetti and other liberal and centrist Democrats. The new outfit may eventually join forces with the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats at the centre of the Italian political spectrum.


The Democratic Party is a big tent centre-left party, strongly influenced by the ideas of social democracy and the Christian left. The common roots of the founding components of the party reside in the Italian resistance movement, the writing of Italian Constitution and the Historic compromise, all three events which saw the Christian Democrats and the Italian Communist Party (the two major forerunners of the Democrats of the Left and Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy, respectively) cooperate. The United States Democratic Party and American liberalism are also an important source of inspiration for the party.

The party stresses national and social cohesion, green issues, social progressivism, progressive taxation and Europeanism. In this respect the party's precursors strongly supported the need of balancing budgets in order to comply to Maastricht criteria. Under the leadership of Veltroni, the party took a strong stance in favour of constitutional reform and of a new electoral law, on the road toward a two-party system.

International affiliation

The foundation of the Democratic Party was called into question by various cases of infighting among the prospective members of the new party. The discussion on which European political party to join was divided between the former Democrats of the Left being generally in favour of the Party of European Socialists (PES) and most former members of Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy in favour of the European Democratic Party.

After the Democratic Party's formation, the new party's MEPs continued to sit with the PES and ALDE groups to which their former parties had been elected during the 2004 European Parliament election. Following the conclusion of the 2009 European Parliament election, the party chose to unite for the new term within a single European parliamentary group, formed by the Democratic Party and the PES, to be known as the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.


2007 primary election

Although not officially recognized, the Democratic Party has several internal factions, most of whom trace the previous allegiances of party members. These groups united themselves to form lists for the election of the Constituent Assembly of the party in October.

Three lists supported the candidacy of Walter Veltroni. The bulk of the former Democrats of the Left (Veltroniani, Dalemiani, Fassiniani), the Rutelliani of Francesco Rutelli (including the Theo-Dem), The Populars of Franco Marini, Liberal PD, the Social Christians and smaller groups (Middle-of-the-Road Italy, European Republicans Movement, Reformist Alliance and the Reformists for Europe) formed a joint-list named "Democrats with Veltroni".

The Democratic Ecologists of Ermete Realacci, together with Giovanna Melandri and Cesare Damiano, formed "Environment, Innovation and Labour", while the Democrats, Laicists, Socialists, Say Left and the Labourites – Liberal Socialists presented a list named "To the Left".

The Ulivists, a group closely linked to Romano Prodi, divided between those supporting Rosy Bindi, as Arturo Parisi, and the supporters of Enrico Letta, as Paolo De Castro. Bindi received also the endorsement of Agazio Loiero (Southern Democratic Party), while Letta the support of Lorenzo Dellai (Daisy Civic List), Renato Soru (Sardinia Project) and Gianni Pittella.

Current situation

The PD is composed of several factions, which form different alliances on different issues and whose members are sometimes also members of other factions. In this section the groupings are organized according to their affiliation during and after the 2009 leadership election:

Majority supporting leader Pier Luigi Bersani

Democratic Area, minority led by Dario Franceschini

Minority led by Ignazio Marino

Un-aligned factions
  • Ulivists: followers of Romano Prodi who want the party to be more in the tradition of The Olive Tree; the group, which includes both Christian left exponents and social democrats is led by Arturo Parisi. Most Ulivists supported Bersani, while Parisi endorsed Franceschini.

Moreover also three small parties can be considered as associate parties of the PD and in fact their MPs are members of the Democratic caucuses in the Chamber and the Senate: the Italian Radicals, the European Republicans Movement, and the Moderates for Piedmont.

Popular support

The electoral results of the Democratic Party in the 10 most populated Regions of Italy are shown in the table below. As PD was founded in 2007, the electoral results from 1994 to 2006 refer to the combined result of the two main percursor parties, the Democrats of the Left and Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy (and its preursors, 1994–2001), or to the joint-list called The Olive Tree.

1994 general 1995 regional 1996 general 1999 European 2000 regional 2001 general 2004 European 2005 regional 2006 general 2008 general 2009 European
Piedmont 29.8 31.4 26.6 25.0 25.6 31.0 29.0 30.5 31.4 32.4 24.7
Lombardy 28.0 25.9 25.5 24.2 20.2 26.8 26.3 27.1 26.7 28.1 21.3
Veneto 33.3 31.5 25.1 23.8 26.0 25.6 26.7 28.9 26.7 26.5 20.3
Emilia-Romagna 51.4 52.3 47.5 43.7 43.9 44.3 43.0 48.1 44.8 45.7 38.6
Tuscany 49.4 47.2 44.8 41.0 44.1 44.3 41.6 48.8 43.3 46.8 38.7
Lazio 37.7 33.2 33.5 30.4 29.6 33.4 31.7 33.8 31.0 36.8 28.1
Campania 36.8 33.3 32.2 31.7 32.9 26.4 31.3 31.3 28.5 29.2 23.4
Apulia 42.1 35.7 31.0 30.8 29.4 29.0 26.3 28.9 29.1 30.1 21.7
Calabria 42.0 37.3 32.0 34.4 27.7 28.6 27.2 33.9 31.4 32.6 25.4
Sicily 30.7 26.4 (1996) 26.7 31.6 22.4 (2001) 24.2 28.6 34.8 (2006) 25.3 25.4 21.9
ITALY 39.3 - 32.2 31.9 - 31.1 31.1 - 31.3 33.2 26.1


The term Partito Democratico was first used in the Regional Council of Veneto, where the Democrats of the Left and Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy form a joint parliamentary group called L'Ulivo – Partito Democratico Veneto (The Olive Tree – Venetian Democratic Party).


See also


  1. L'Unione Sarda
  7. Forza Italia failed to present a list and thus some centre-right voters voted for PPI and Patto Segni.
  8. Includes the score of the Southern Democratic Party (5.1%).
  9. Although she was never elected party president, Finocchiaro presided over all the party's meetings since Prodi's resignation, including the national assembly of 20 June 2008 (see video), the national assembly of 21 February 2009 (see video) and the national convention of 11 October 2009 (see video).

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