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Forza Italia (Forward Italy, FI) was a Christian-democratic, liberal and liberal-conservative political party in Italy led by Silvio Berlusconi, four times Prime Minister of Italy.

The party was founded in December 1993 and won its first election soon afterwards in March 1994. It was the main member of the Pole of Freedoms and the House of Freedoms coalitions, and is considered (by both insiders and outsiders) to be very different from the other Italian political parties.

In November 2008 the National Council of the party, presided by Alfredo Biondi, officially ruled on the dissolution of Forza Italia into The People of Freedom, Berlusconi's new political vehicle, whose official took place in early 2009.

History

Foundation (1993–1994)

Forza Italia was formed in 1993 by Silvio Berlusconi, a successful businessman and owner of four of the main private television stations in Italy, along with Antonio Martino, Mario Valducci, Antonio Tajani, Marcello Dell'Utri, Cesare Previti and Giuliano Urbani.

Italy was shaken by a series of corruption scandals known as Tangentopoli and the subsequent police investigation, called Mani pulite. This led to the disappearance of the five parties which governed Italy from 1947: DC, PSI, PSDI, PLI and PRI (they formed a successful five-party coalition called Pentapartito from 1983 to 1991, and then governed without PRI from 1991 to 1994) and to the end of the so-called First Republic.

Forza Italia's aim was to attract moderate voters who were "disoriented, politically orphans and which risked to be unrepresented" (as Berlusconi described them), especially if the ex-Communist Democratic Party of the Left was to win the next election and enter in government for the first time since 1947.

A short stint in power (1994–1995)

A few months after its creation, Forza Italia came to national power after the 1994 elections as the head of a political coalition called Pole of Freedoms, composed of Lega Nord, National Alliance, Christian Democratic Centre and Union of the Centre.

Silvio Berlusconi was sworn in in May 1994 as prime minister of Italy in a government in which the most important cabinet posts were held by fellow FI's members: Antonio Martino was foreign minister, Cesare Previti defence minister, Alfredo Biondi justice minister and Giulio Tremonti (at the time an independent member of Parliament) finance minister.

The government had a short life and fell in December, when Lega Nord left the coalition, after disagreements over pension reform and the first avviso di garanzia for Berlusconi, passed by Milan prosecutors. Forza Italia's leader was replaced as prime minister by Lamberto Dini, an independent politician who had been his treasury minister. No members of Forza Italia joined the new government and the party lead was relegated to opposition.

Five years of opposition (1996–2001)

In 1996 the Pole of Freedoms finally lost the elections and began what Berlusconi called "the crossing of desert", something that could have been proven fatal for a young and unstructured party such as Forza Italia. Between 1996 and 1998, the party started to strengthen its organization, under Claudio Scajola, a former Christian Democrat who was national coordinator of the party from 1996 to 2001.

In 1999 Forza Italia gained full membership of the European People's Party, of which Antonio Tajani, party leader in the European Parliamentmarker, is currently Vice President. In the same year, it scored very well (25.2%) in the European Parliament election.

In 2000 regional elections the Pole of Freedoms, with the support of Lega Nord, won in 8 regions (the most popolous ones, except Campania) out of 15 and Forza Italia's members were elected President of Region in Piedmont (Enzo Ghigo, confirmed), Lombardy (Roberto Formigoni, confirmed), Veneto (Giancarlo Galan, confirmed), Liguria (Sandro Biasotti, newly elected), Pugliamarker (Raffaele Fitto, newly elected) and Calabria (Giuseppe Chiaravalloti, newly elected).

The party regained power in the 2001 elections (29.4% along with Giorgio La Malfa's tiny Italian Republican Party), in a new coalition called House of Freedoms and composed mainly of National Alliance, Lega Nord, Christian Democratic Centre and United Christian Democrats (the last two parties merged in 2002 forming the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats, UDC).

Five years in government (2001–2006)

In June 2001, after the huge success in May elections, Sivio Berlusconi was returned head of the Italian government, the longest-serving cabinet in Italian Republican history. Again all ministerial key-posts were given to Forza Italia members: interior (Claudio Scajola 2001–2002, Giuseppe Pisanu 2002–2006), defence (Antonio Martino 2001–2006), finance (Giulio Tremonti, 2001–2004 and 2005–2006), industry (Antonio Marzano 2001–2005, Claudio Scajola 2005–2006) and foreign affairs (Franco Frattini, 2002–2004). Anyway Gianfranco Fini, National Alliance's leader, was appointed vice-president of the government and foreign minister from 2004 to 2006, while Roberto Castelli, senior figure of Lega Nord was justice minister from 2001 to 2006.

Regional elections in April 2005 were a serious blow for the party, which however remained strong in the northern regions, such as Lombardy and Veneto, and somewhere in the South, where Sicily is a stronghold. After this disappointing electoral performance the cabinet was reshuffled, due to the insistence of the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats's leaders, and Berlusconi formed his III cabinet.

During his five years in office, Berlusconi passed through Parliament passed a pension system reform, a labour-market reform, a judiciary reform and a constitutional reform, then rejected by a referendum in June 2006. In foreign policy he shifted the country's position to more closeness to the United Statesmarker, while in economic policy he was not able to deliver all the tax-cuts he had openely promised throughout all 2001 electoral campaign.

Toward The People of Freedom (2006–2009)

2008 logo
In the 2006 general election the party was present with a slightly different logo, with the words "Berlusconi President" (Berlusconi Presidente). It was the only party to use the word "President" in its logo. In the election for the Chamber of Deputies, FI scored 23.7% and 137 seats, in those for the Senate 24.0%, without counting Trentino-Alto Adige, whose seats were contested on first-past-the-post basis and which is a left-wing stronghold, due to its alliance with the autonomist South Tyrolean People's Party).

On 31 July 2007 Berlusconi's protegee and possible successor Michela Vittoria Brambilla registered the name and the logo of the "Freedom Party" apparently with Berlusconi's backing. On 18 November after that Forza Italia claimed to have collected the signatures of more than 7 million Italians (including Umberto Bossi) against the Romano Prodi's government in order to ask the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano to call a fresh election, Berlusconi announced that Forza Italia would have soon merged or transformed into The People of Freedom (PdL) party.

After the sudden fall of Prodi II Cabinet on 24 January 2008, the break-up of The Union coalition and the subsequent political crisis paving the way towards a new general election, Berlusconi hinted on 25 January that Forza Italia would have probably contested its last election and the new party would have been officially founded only after that election. In an atmosphere of reconciliation with Gianfranco Fini, Berlusconi also stated that the new party could have seen the participation of other parties. Finally, on 8 February, Berlusconi and Fini agreed to form a joint list under the banner of the "The People of Freedom", allied with Lega Nord. In the 2008 general election the PdL won 37.4% and a majority in both chambers, thanks to the alliance with Lega Nord (8.3%). Soon after the election Berlusconi formed his fourth government.

On 21 November 2008 the National Council of the party, presided by Alfredo Biondi and attended by Berlusconi himself, officially decided the dissolution of Forza Italia into The People of Freedom, whose official foundation took place in March 2009.

Ideology

Forza Italia was a centre-right party, formed mainly by ex-Christian Democrats, ex-Liberals and ex-Socialists. The ideology of the party ranged from libertarianism to social democracy (often referred as "liberal socialism" in Italy), including elements of the Catholic social teaching and the social market economy. The party was a member of the European People's Party (EPP) and presented itself as the party of renewal and modernization. The core values of Forza Italia were "freedom" and the "centrality of the individual". From a comparative perspective the ideology of Forza Italia has been characterized as both "liberal conservative"http://www.parties-and-elections.de/italy.html Retrieved on 2-5-2008, "national conservative" and "liberal".

Alessandro Campi wrote that "the political culture of Forza Italia – a curious and, on many respects, untold mixture of "liberalism" and "democratic populism" – deserves to be described as an "anti-ideologic ideology", [...] as a sinthesis or fusion of very diverse political families and traditions (from liberal catholicism to social conservatism, from reformist socialism to economic liberalism), kept together by the mobilizing appeal to "freedom"". Chiara Moroni, who explains Forza Italia's ideology as a mixture of liberal, christian-democratic and social-democratic values (united in the concept of "popular liberalism" in party documents), wrote that "Berlusconi offered to voters liberal values through a populist style" and that "Forza Italia has made the liberal political ideal popular" among voters, so that "it was spread and shared by broad and heterogenous sectors of the Italian population".

In fact the electoral base of Forza Italia was highly heterogeneous and the ideological differences among its voters are explained also by its different regional constituencies: while voters from the North tended to support the original libertarian line of the party, voters from the South tended to be more statist. Both its Northern strongholds (Lombardy, Veneto) and its Southern strongholds (Sicily, Apuliamarker) were once dominated by the Christian Democracy party, but, while in the South most leading members of Forza Italia are former Christian Democrats, the party was highly influenced also by liberals in the North.

Forza Italia claimed to be a fresh-new party, with no ties with the last governments of the so-called First Republic, and at the same time to be the heir of the best political traditions of Italy: a Christian Democrat as Alcide De Gasperi, a Social Democrat as Giuseppe Saragat, a Liberal as Luigi Einaudi and a Republican as Ugo La Malfa were considered as party icons.

The "Secular Creed", that was also the preable to the party's constitution, described the party in this way:

Forza Italia thus presented itself as a bridge between Catholics and non-Catholics, who have been previously divided in the political system of the First Republic, and "the union of three political-cultural areas: that of liberal and popular Catholicism, that of secular, liberal and republican humanism and that of liberal socialism". In a speech during a party congress in 1998, Berlusconi himself proclaimed: "our liberal vision of the State is perfectly in agreement with the Catholic social teaching".

The "Secular Creed" of the party explains that FI was a party that primarily underlined freedom and the centrality of the individual, which are basic principles of both liberalism and the Catholic social teaching, often connected in party official documents:

In 2008 Berlusconi stated that:

Sandro Bondi, a leading member of the party, wrote:

The party included also non-Catholic members, but they were a minority, and it was less secular in its policies than Germanmarker Christian Democratic Union (in which there are also prominent Jews). The party usually gave to its members freedom of conscience on moral issues (and hence a free vote), as in the case of the referendum on stem-cell research, but leading members of the party, including Silvio Berlusconi, Giulio Tremonti and Marcello Pera (who is himself non-Catholic, although friend of Pope Benedict XVI), spoke in favour of "abstention" (as asked by the Catholic Church, in order to not surpass the 50% of turnout needed for making the referendum legally binding). While Pera campaigned hard for the success of the boycott alongside with most FI members, both Berlusconi and Tremonti explicitly said that "abstention" was their personal opinion, not the official one of the party.

Members

See also List of Forza Italia leading members by political origin


Most members of the party were former Christian Democrats (DC): Giuseppe Pisanu (former member of the leftist faction of DC and Minister of Interior), Roberto Formigoni (President of Lombardy), Claudio Scajola (former Minister of the Interior and of Industry), Enrico La Loggia, Renato Schifani, Guido Crosetto, Raffaele Fitto, Giuseppe Gargani, Alfredo Antoniozzi, Giorgio Carollo, Giuseppe Castiglione, Francesco Giro, Luigi Grillo, Maurizio Lupi, Mario Mantovani, Mario Mauro, Osvaldo Napoli, Antonio Palmieri, Angelo Sanza, Riccardo Ventre and Marcello Vernola are only some remarkable examples.

Several members were former Socialists (PSI), as Giulio Tremonti (Vice President of the party and former Minister of Economy), Franco Frattini (Vice President of the European Commissionmarker), Fabrizio Cicchitto (national deputy-coordinator of the party), Renato Brunetta, Francesco Musotto, Amalia Sartori, Paolo Guzzanti and Margherita Boniver. Berlusconi himself was a close friend of Bettino Craxi, leader of PSI, in spite of his Christian Democratic and Liberal background (he was a DC's activist in occasion of the 1948 general election).

Many were former Liberals (PLI), Republicans (PRI) and Social Democrats (PSDI): Alfredo Biondi (President of Forza Italia's National Council) and Raffaele Costa, both former PLI leaders, and former PSDI leader Carlo Vizzini were later MPs for Forza Italia. Also Antonio Martino and Giancarlo Galan were formers Liberals, Jas Gawronski was a leading Republican, while Marcello Pera has a Socialist and Radical background.

Even some former Communists were leading members of the party, such as national party coordinator Sandro Bondi and Fernando Adornato.

Factions

Members of Forza Italia were divided in factions, which were sometimes mutable and formed over the most important political issues, despite previous party allegiances. However it is possible to distinguish some patterns. The party was divided basically over ethical (between social-conservatives and progressives), economic (between social-democrats and some Christian-democrats on one side and liberals on the other one) and institutional issues.

Regarding the latter issue, generally speaking, northern party members were staunch proposers of political, fiscal federalism and autonomy for the Regions (in some parts of Veneto and Lombardy, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish a member of FI from a leghista), while those coming from the South were more cold on the issue. Also some former Liberals, due to their role of unifiers of Italy in the XIX Century, were more centralist.

A scheme of the internal factions within Forza Italia could be this:

Christian-democrats and liberal-centrists were undoubtedly the strongest factions within the party, but all four were mainstream for a special issue: for example liberals and liberal-centrists were highly influential over economic policy, Christian-democrats led the party over ethical issues (although there was a substantial minority promoting a more progressive outlook), while social-democrats had their say in defining the party's policy over labour market reform and, moreover, it is thanks to this group (and to those around Tremonti, he himself a former Socialist) that constitutional reform was at the top of Forza Italia's political agenda. It is difficult to say to what faction Berlusconi was closer, what is sure is that his political record was a synthesis of all the political tendencies within the party.

Internal structure

Before being merged into the PdL, Forza Italia had a President (currently Silvio Berlusconi), two Vice-Presidents (Giulio Tremonti and Roberto Formigoni), a Presidential Committee (presided by Claudio Scajola) and a National Council (presided by Alfredo Biondi).

As the President is the leader of the party, a national coordinator was in charge of internal organization and day-to-day political activity, similarly to the secretary-general in many European parties. Moreover the party had thematic departments and regional, provincial or metropolitan coordination boards plus a lot of affiliate clubs (Club Azzurro) all over Italy.

It has been claimed that Forza Italia had no internal democracy because there was no way of changing the leader of the party from below (although the party's constitution makes it possible). Key posts in the party structure were appointed by Berlusconi or by his delegates. Forza Italia's organization was based on the idea of a "party of the elected people", giving more imortance to the whole electorate than to party's members.

Party national-level conventions did not have normally elections to choose the party leadership (although the National Congress elected some members of the National Council), and they seemed to be more like events arranged for propaganda purposes. However, Berlusconi was highly popular among his party fellows, and it was unlikely he could be overthrown if such an election were to occur.

Within the party there was a long debate over organization. The original idea was the so-called "light party" (partito leggero), intended to be different from Italian traditional, bureaucratic and self-referential, party machines. This was the line of the early founders of the party, notably Marcello Dell'Utri and Antonio Martino. However Claudio Scajola and most former Christian Democrats supported a more capillarly-based organization, in order to make partecipate as much people as possible, and a more collegial, partecipative and democratic decision-making process.

Distinctive traits

Since its birth Forza Italia used unconventional means for European politics (in fact resembling more the American model), such as stickering, sms messaging and mass mailing of propaganda material, including the biography of its leader Berlusconi, "An Italian story" (Una storia italiana).

The party was heavily dependent on Berlusconi's image, the party's anthem was sung in karaoke fashion at American-style conventions, there was nominally no internal opposition (althrough some critical voices raised up, such as those of Senators Paolo Guzzanti and Raffaele Iannuzzi), and the party used TV advertising extensively, although this has been slightly restricted since 2000 by a law passed by the then centre-left majority.

Popular support

The electoral results of Forza Italia in the 10 most populated Regions of Italy are shown in the table below.

1994 general 1995 regional 1996 general 1999 European 2000 regional 2001 general 2004 European 2005 regional 2006 general
Piedmont 26.5 26.7 21.7 28.8 30.8 32.0 22.2 22.4 23.5
Lombardy 26.0 29.2 23.6 30.5 33.9 32.3 25.7 26.0 27.1
Veneto 23.7 24.0 17.1 26.0 30.4 32.0 24.6 22.7 24.5
Emilia-Romagna 16.5 18.2 15.1 20.4 21.2 23.8 19.8 18.2 18.6
Tuscany 16.4 19.1 14.3 19.5 20.3 21.7 17.8 17.2 16.9
Lazio 20.5 18.9 16.1 20.6 21.5 26.4 17.5 15.4 21.4
Campania 19.9 18.9 23.4 25.2 20.9 33.8 19.5 11.9 27.2
Apulia - 20.7 24.6 28.0 28.7 30.1 20.4 26.8 27.3
Calabria 19.0 19.7 18.3 21.4 18.3 25.7 13.0 10.0 20.7
Sicily 33.6 17.1 (1996) 32.2 26.8 25.1 (2001) 36.7 21.5 19.2 (2006) 29.1
ITALY 21.0 - 20.4 25.2 - 29.4 21.0 - 23.7


Leadership

*Vice President: Giulio Tremonti (2004−2009), Roberto Formigoni (2008−2009)
*Spokesperson: Antonio Tajani (1994−1996), Paolo Bonaiuti (1996−2001), Sandro Bondi (2001−2004), Elisabetta Gardini (2004−2008), Daniele Capezzone (2008−2009)
*Vice President of the President's Committee: Carlo Vizzini (2005−2009)
*Deputy-Coordinator: Giuliano Urbani / Mario Valducci (1995–1996), Fabrizio Cicchitto (2003–2009), Gianfranco Miccichè (2004–2009), Renato Brunetta (2007–2009), Gian Carlo Abelli (2008–2009)




External links



References

Bibliography




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