Radical Party (Italy)

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Radical Party
Partito Radicale
Leaders Mario Pannunzio,
Bruno Villabruna,
Pannella List,
Enzo Tortora,
Francesco Rutelli,
Marco Pannella
Founded 11 December 1955 (1955-12-11)
Dissolved 1 January 1989 (1989-01-01)
Split from Italian Liberal Party
Merged into Transnational Radical Party
Succeeded by Transnational Radical Party
Antiprohibitionists on Drugs (1989)
Pannella List (1992)
Headquarters via della Torre Argentina 76, Rome
Newspaper il Mondo
Notizie Radicali
Membership  (1958) 11,645 (max)[1]
Ideology Radicalism[2]
Social liberalism
Political position Radical centre to Centre-left
National affiliation none
International affiliation none
European affiliation none
European Parliament group Technical Group of Independents (1979–84)
Non-Inscrits (1984–89)
Colors      Orange (informal)
Politics of Italy
Political parties

The Radical Party (Italian: 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 never participated in government, the party 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 PR was transformed into the Transnational Radical Party. During the 1990s the Radicals had formed a succession of electoral lists (notably including the Pannella List and Bonino List), without having a structured party and sometimes dividing themselves between competing lists. The current incarnation of the party is the Italian Radicals, founded in 2001.


The PR was founded in 1955 by the left-wing of the Italian Liberal Party as the ideal continuation of the historical Radical Party, active from 1877 to 1925, emphasising liberal and secular issues, such as 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 PR was re-founded by Marco Pannella and Gianfranco Spadaccia in 1963 and came to political success in the 1976 general election, when it entered Parliament with 4 deputies: Pannella, Emma Bonino, Adele Faccio and Mauro Mellini. In the 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[3]) 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 MEP 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, an NGO working at the UN level and coordinating the efforts of several national parties and groupings mainly in support of human rights. The Radicals continued to participate in Italian political life through the Rainbow Greens, the Pannella List and the Bonino List (see disambiguation). In 2001 they re-organised themselves as the Italian Radicals.


The PR 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 Italian left (and proposing the adoption of an American-style electoral system based on first-past-the-post voting 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 promotion of referenda.

An anti-clerical party,[4] 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 PR 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 Sterilisation and Abortion (Centro Italiano Sterilizzazioni e Aborti) and by giving its support to the Italian Revolutionary Homosexual United Front (Fronte Unitario Omosessuale Rivoluzionario Italiano, FUORI), one of the first Italian gay associations. All these groups, as well as many others, were part of the Radical movement, that was always organised as a federation of single-issue associations rather than a united party.

Popular support[edit]

The PR never gained massive support in elections, due to its loose organisation 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 (especially in Piedmont) and in large cities (Rome, Milan, Turin and Naples) than in the South and in rural areas.[5]

In the 1990s the Pannella List and the Bonino List, the latter emphasising economic issues and supporting a strongly libertarian approach, did particularly well in the North, while the Italian Radicals (active since 2001) lost many votes to Forza Italia when the Radicals joined the centre-left in 2005.



  1. ^ http://www.cattaneo.org/archivi/adele/iscritti.xls
  2. ^ Emil J. Kirchner (3 November 1988). Liberal Parties in Western Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 409. ISBN 978-0-521-32394-9. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  3. ^ David Busato, Il Partito Radicale in Italia da Mario Pannunzio a Marco Pannella, 1996
  4. ^ Ian Budge; David Robertson; Derek Hearl (9 July 1987). Ideology, Strategy and Party Change: Spatial Analyses of Post-War Election Programmes in 19 Democracies. Cambridge University Press. p. 347. ISBN 978-0-521-30648-5. 
  5. ^ Piergiorgio Corbetta; Maria Serena Piretti, Atlante storico-elettorale d'Italia, Zanichelli, Bologna 2009