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The Radical Party (Partito Radicale, PR) was a political party in Italy. For decades it was a bastion of liberalism and radicalism in Italy and proposed itself as the strongest opposition to the Italian political establishment, seen as corrupt and conservative. Although it never reached high shares of vote and it never took part in government, it had close relations with the other parties of the Italian left, from the Republicans and the Socialists to the Communists and Proletarian Democracy, and opened its ranks also to members of other parties, through "double membership".

In 1989 the party was transformed into the Transnational Radical Party. The current incarnation of the party is called Italian Radicals, which was founded after a period in the 1990s when the Radicals presented electoral lists (Pannella List, Bonino List, etc.) for Italian general elections, without having a structured party and sometimes dividing themselves in competing lists.


The Radical Party was founded in 1955 by the progressive left-wing of the Italian Liberal Party as the ideal continuation of the historical Radical Party, active from 1877 to 1925, emphasizing liberal and secular issues, such as the effective separation of church and state and the full implementation of the Constitution. Leading members of the new party included Bruno Villabruna, Mario Pannunzio, Ernesto Rossi, Leo Valiani, Guido Calogero, Giovanni Ferrara, Paolo Ungari, Eugenio Scalfari and Marco Pannella.

After a temporary disbandment, the party was re-founded by Marco Pannella and Gianfranco Spadaccia in 1963 and came to political success in the 1976, when the Radicals entered Parliament with 4 deputies: Marco Pannella, Emma Bonino, Adele Faccio and Mauro Mellini. In 1979 general election the party won 3.5% of the vote and elected 18 deputies and 2 senators, its best result ever. The relative success of the party (Pannella was very disappointed of the 1979 result) was a consequence of the new line impressed by Pannella who moved the party's focus to issues like divorce and abortion, also by winning three referenda on those issues in 1974 and 1981.

In the 1980s the party focused more on international and European issues. Pannella was member of the European Parliament since 1979 and led the party into new battles against hunger and in favour of European integration. In 1989 the party was transformed into the Transnational Radical Party, a NGO working at the UN level and coordinating the efforts of several national parties and groupings mainly in support of human rights. Radicals continued to participate in Italian political life through the Rainbow Greens, the Pannella List and the Bonino List (see disambiguation). In 2001 Radicals re-organized themselves in the Italian Radicals.


The Radical Party was the first party in Italy to give expression to the transformation of Italian society towards more liberal behaviour and ideas in the post-war period. It placed itself strongly in the left-wing of Italian politics, often working for the unity of all the parties of the left-wing (thus proposing the adoption of an American-style electoral system based on first-past-the-post and the transformation of Italian institutions toward a presidential system), but also often being rejected by certain areas of the left itself, especially those linked with the Italian Communist Party, due to the Radicals' strong belief in libertarian policies, both socially and economically speaking. The party was also known for its strong belief in direct democracy and especially for its use of referenda.

Its first victorious campaign was the creation in the mid 1960s of the Italian League for Divorce (Lega Italiana per il Divorzio, LID) which was the first to succeed in marshalling together all the secular political forces into a unified political alliance thus getting the law on divorce approved.During the 1970s, the Radical Party succeeded in starting up a vast movement in favour of civil rights by setting up the Women's Liberation Movement (Movimento di Liberazione della Donna, MLD), by supporting the activities of the Italian Centre for Sterilization and Abortion (Centro Italiano Sterilizzazioni e Aborti) and by giving its support to the Italian Revolutionary Homosexual United Front (Fronte Unitario Omosessuale Rivoluzionario Italiano, FUPRI), one of the first Italian gay associations. All these groups, as well as many others, were part of the Radical movement, that was always organized as a federation of single-issue associations rather than a united party.

Popular support

The PR never gained massive support in elections, due to its loose organization and eclectic profile: the party did not file candidates for all the elections and sometimes even supported abstention from voting. The party's best result was in the 1979 general election, when it won 3.5% of the vote. Although support for the party was uniform all around the country, it did better in the North (and especially in Piedmont) than in the South and generally speaking in large cities (Romemarker, Milanmarker, Turinmarker and Naplesmarker).

In the 1990s the two main successors of the party, the Pannella List and the Bonino List, that emphasized economic issues and supported a strongly libertarian approach, did particularly well in Northern regions, while the Italian Radicals (the new incarnation of the PR since 2001) lost many votes to Forza Italia after they decided to return into the centre-left camp in 2005.





  1. David Busato, Il Partito Radicale in Italia da Mario Pannunzio a Marco Pannella, 1996
  2. Piergiorgio Corbetta; Maria Serena Piretti, Atlante storico-elettorale d'Italia, Zanichelli, Bologna 2009


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