Democratic Party (Italy)

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Democratic Party
Partito Democratico
SecretaryEnrico Letta
Deputy SecretaryIrene Tinagli
Peppe Provenzano
PresidentValentina Cuppi
Vice PresidentsDebora Serracchiani
Anna Ascani
Founded14 October 2007; 14 years ago (2007-10-14)
Merger ofDemocrats of the Left
Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy
several minor parties
HeadquartersVia Sant'Andrea delle Fratte 16 (Largo del Nazareno) 00186 Rome
NewspaperL'Unità (2007–2014)
Europa (2007–2014)
Democratica (2017–2019)
Immagina (2020–present)
Youth wingYoung Democrats
Membership (2019)374,786[1]
IdeologySocial democracy[2][3][4]
Christian left[4][5][6]
Political positionCentre-left[7][8]
National affiliationCentre-left coalition
European affiliationParty of European Socialists
International affiliationProgressive Alliance
European Parliament groupProgressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Colours  Green   Red
Chamber of Deputies
95 / 630
39 / 315
European Parliament
16 / 76
Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces
5 / 21
Regional Councils
183 / 897

  1. ^ One Democratic senator sits in the For the Autonomies.

The Democratic Party (Italian: Partito Democratico, PD) is a social-democratic political party in Italy.[2][3][4] The party's secretary is Enrico Letta, who was elected by the national assembly in March 2021,[9] after the resignation of the former leader Nicola Zingaretti,[10] while its president is Valentina Cuppi.[11]

The PD was established in 2007 upon the merger of various centre-left parties which had been part of The Olive Tree list in the 2006 general election, mainly the social-democratic Democrats of the Left (DS), successor of the Italian Communist Party and the Democratic Party of the Left, which was folded with several social-democratic parties (Labour Federation and Social Christians, among others) in 1998, and the largely Catholic-inspired Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy (DL), a merger of the Italian People's Party (heir of the Christian Democracy party's left wing), The Democrats, and Italian Renewal in 2002.[12] While the party has also been influenced by social liberalism and Third Way progressivism, especially under Matteo Renzi's leadership, the PD's main ideological trends are social democracy and the Christian leftist tradition.[13][14][15]

Between 2013 and 2018, the Italian government was led by three successive Democratic Prime Ministers, namely Letta (2013–2014), Renzi (2014–2016) and Paolo Gentiloni (2016–2018). The PD was the second-largest party in the 2018 general election, but the centre-left coalition came third. The party was returned to government in September 2019 with the Conte II Cabinet, as junior partner of the Five Star Movement, and joined the national unity Draghi Cabinet, comprising also the League and Forza Italia, in February 2021. As of 2021, the party heads five regional governments.

Prominent Democrats include former leaders Walter Veltroni, Dario Franceschini, Maurizio Martina, and Nicola Zingaretti, as well as David Sassoli (President of the European Parliament, since 2019). Former members include Giorgio Napolitano (President of Italy, 2006–2015), Sergio Mattarella (President of Italy, 2015–present), four Prime Ministers (Romano Prodi, Giuliano Amato, Massimo D'Alema, and Renzi), and three former leaders (Pier Luigi Bersani, Guglielmo Epifani, and Renzi), as well as Francesco Rutelli, Pietro Grasso, and Carlo Calenda.


Background: The Olive Tree[edit]

Following Tangentopoli scandals, the end of the so-called First Republic and the transformation of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) into the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS) in the early 1990s, a process aimed at uniting left-wing and centre-left forces into a single political entity was started.

In 1995, Romano Prodi, a former minister of Industry on behalf of the left-wing faction of Christian Democracy (DC), entered politics and founded The Olive Tree (L'Ulivo), a centre-left coalition including the PDS, the Italian People's Party (PPI), the Federation of the Greens (FdV), Italian Renewal (RI), the Italian Socialists (SI) and Democratic Union (UD). The coalition in alliance with the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) won the 1996 general election and Prodi became Prime Minister.

In February 1998, the PDS merged with minor social-democratic parties (Labour Federation and Social Christians, among others) to become the Democrats of the Left (DS), while in March 2002 the PPI, RI and The Democrats (Prodi's own party, launched in 1999) became Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy (DL). In the summer of 2003, Prodi suggested that centre-left forces should participate in the 2004 European Parliament election with a common list. Whereas the Union of Democrats for Europe (UDEUR) and the far-left parties refused, four parties accepted, namely the DS, DL, the Italian Democratic Socialists (SDI) and the European Republicans Movement (MRE). These launched a joint list named United in the Olive Tree which ran in the election and garnered 31.1% of the vote. The project was later abandoned in 2005 by the SDI.

In the 2006 general election, the list obtained 31.3% of the vote for the Chamber of Deputies.

Road to the Democratic Party[edit]

The project of a Democratic Party was often mentioned by Prodi as the natural evolution of The Olive Tree and was bluntly envisioned by Michele Salvati, a former centrist deputy of the DS, in an appeal in Il Foglio newspaper in April 2013.[16] The term Partito Democratico was used for the first time in a formal context by the DL and DS members of the Regional Council of Veneto, who chose to form a joint group named The Olive Tree – Venetian Democratic Party (L'Ulivo – Partito Democratico Veneto) in March 2007.[17]

The 2006 election result, anticipated by the 2005 primary election in which over four million voters endorsed Prodi as candidate for Prime Minister, gave a push to the project of a unified centre-left party. Eight parties agreed to merge into the PD:

While the DL agreed to the merger with virtually no resistance, the DS experienced a more heated final congress. On 19 April 2007, approximately 75% of party members voted in support of the merger of the DS into the PD. The left-wing opposition, led by Fabio Mussi, obtained just 15% of the support within the party. A third motion, presented by Gavino Angius and supportive of the PD only within the Party of European Socialists (PES), obtained 10% of the vote. Both Mussi and Angius refused to join the PD and, following the congress, founded a new party called Democratic Left (SD).

On 22 May 2007, the organising committee of the nascent party was formed. It consisted of 45 members, mainly politicians from the two aforementioned major parties and the leaders of the other six minor parties. Also leading external figures such as Giuliano Amato, Marcello De Cecco, Gad Lerner, Carlo Petrini and Tullia Zevi were included.[18] On 18 June, the committee decided the rules for the open election of the 2,400 members of the party's constituent assembly; each voter could choose between a number of lists, each of them associated with a candidate for secretary.

Foundation and leadership election[edit]

All candidates interested in running for the PD leadership had to be associated with one of the founding parties and present at least 2,000 valid signatures by 30 July 2007. 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 Schettini, Lucio Cangini and Amerigo Rutigliano. Of these, Pannella and Di Pietro were rejected because of their involvement in external parties (the Radicals and Italy of Values respectively) 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.[19] All rejected candidates had the chance against the decision in 48 hours' time,[20] with Pannella and Rutigliano being the only two candidates to appeal against it.[21] Both were rejected on 3 August.[22]

On 14 October 2007, Veltroni was elected leader with about 75% of the national votes in an open primary attended by over three million voters.[23] Veltroni was proclaimed secretary during a party's constituent assembly held in Milan on 28 October 2007.[24]

On 21 November, the new logo was unveiled. It depicts an olive branch and the acronym PD in colours reminiscent of the Italian tricolour flag (green, white and red). In the words of Ermete Realacci, green represents the ecologist and social-liberal cultures, white the Catholic solidarity and red the socialist and social-democratic traditions.[25] The green-white-red idea was coined by Schettini during his campaign.

Leadership of Walter Veltroni[edit]

After the premature fall of the Prodi II Cabinet in January 2008, the PD decided to form a less diverse coalition. The party invited the Radicals and the Socialist Party (PS) to join its lists, but only the Radicals accepted and formed an alliance with Italy of Values (IdV) which was set to join the PD after the election. The PD 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 on 13–14 April 2008, the PD–IdV coalition won 37.5% of the vote and was defeated by the centre-right coalition, composed of The People of Freedom (PdL), the Lega Nord and the Movement for Autonomy (46.8%). The PD was able to absorb some votes from the parties of the far-left as also IdV did, but lost voters to the Union of the Centre (UdC), ending up with 33.2% of the vote, 217 deputies and 119 senators. After the election Veltroni, who was gratified by the result, formed a shadow cabinet. IdV, excited by its 4.4% which made it the fourth largest party in Parliament, refused to join both the Democratic groups and the shadow cabinet.

The early months after the election were a difficult time for the PD and Veltroni, whose leadership was weakened by the growing influence of internal factions because of the popularity of Berlusconi and the dramatic rise of IdV in opinion polls.[26] IdV became a strong competitor of the PD and the relations between the two parties became tense. In the 2008 Abruzzo regional election, the PD was forced to support IdV candidate Carlo Costantini.[27] In October, 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".[28]

Leadership of Dario Franceschini[edit]

After a crushing defeat in the February 2009 Sardinian regional election, Walter Veltroni resigned as party secretary. His deputy Dario Franceschini took over as interim party secretary to guide the party toward the selection of a new stable leader.[29][30] Franceschini was elected by the party's national assembly with 1,047 votes out of 1,258. His only opponent Arturo Parisi won a mere 92 votes.[29][30] Franceschini was the first former Christian Democrat to lead the party.

The 2009 European Parliament election was an important test for the PD. Prior to the election, the PD considered offering hospitality to the Socialist Party (PS) and the Greens in its lists, and proposed a similar pact to Democratic Left (SD).[31] However, the Socialists, the Greens and Democratic Left decided instead to contest the election together as a new alliance called Left and Freedom which failed to achieve the 4% threshold required to return any MEPs, but damaged the PD, which gained 26.1% of the vote, returning 21 MEPs.

Leadership of Pier Luigi Bersani[edit]

The national convention and a subsequent open primary were called for October,[32][33] with Franceschini, Pier Luigi Bersani and Ignazio Marino were running for the leadership,[34][35] while a fourth candidate, Rutigliano, was excluded because of lack of signatures.[36] In local conventions, a 56.4% of party members voted and Bersani was by far the most voted candidate with 55.1% of the vote, largely ahead of Franceschini (37.0%) and Marino (7.9%).[37] Three million people participated in the open primary on 25 October 2009; Bersani was elected new secretary of the party with about 53% of the vote, ahead of Franceschini with 34% and Marino with 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.[38][39]

In reaction to the election of Bersani, perceived by some moderates as an old-style social democrat, Francesco Rutelli (a long-time critic of the party's course) and other centrists and liberals within the PD left in order to form a new centrist party, named Alliance for Italy (ApI).[40] Following March 2009, and especially after Bersani's victory, many deputies,[41] senators,[42] one MEP and several regional/local councillors[43] left the party to join the UdC, ApI and other minor parties. They included many Rutelliani and most Teodems.

In March 2010, a big round of regional elections, involving eleven regions, took place. The PD lost four regions to the centre-right (Piedmont, Lazio, Campania and Calabria), and maintained its hold on six (Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Marche, Umbria and Basilicata), plus Apulia, a traditionally conservative region where due to divisions within the centre-right Nichi Vendola of SEL was re-elected with the PD's support.

In September 2011, Bersani was invited by Antonio Di Pietro's IdV to take part to its annual late summer convention in Vasto, Abruzzo. Bersani, who had been accused by Di Pietro of avoiding him in order to court the centre-right UdC,[44] proposed the formation of a New Olive Tree coalition comprising the PD, IdV and SEL.[45] The three party leaders agreed in what was soon dubbed the pact of Vasto.[46][47] The pact was broken after the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi as Prime Minister in November 2011, as the PD gave external support to Mario Monti's technocratic government, along with the PdL and the UdC.[48][49]

Road to the 2013 general election[edit]

A year after the pact of Vasto, the relations between the PD and IdV had become tense. IdV and its leader, Antonio Di Pietro, were thus excluded from the coalition talks led by Bersani. To these talks were instead invited SEL led by Nichi Vendola and the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) led by Riccardo Nencini. The talks resulted on 13 October 2012 in the Pact of Democrats and Progressives (later known as Italy. Common Good) and produced the rules for the upcoming centre-left primary election, during which the PD–SEL–PSI joint candidate for Prime Minister in the 2013 general election would be selected.[50][51]

In the primary, the strongest challenge to Bersani was posed by a fellow Democrat, the 37-year-old mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi, a liberal moderniser, who had officially launched his leadership bid on 13 September 2012 in Verona, Veneto.[52] Bersani launched his own bid on 14 October in his hometown Bettola, north-western Emilia.[53][54][55] Other candidates included Nichi Vendola (SEL),[56] Bruno Tabacci (ApI) and Laura Puppato (PD).[57]

In the 2012 regional election, Rosario Crocetta (member of the PD) was elected president with 30.5% of the vote thanks to the support of the UdC, but the coalition failed to secure an outright majority in the Regional Assembly.[58][59] For the first time in 50 years, a left-wing politician had the chance to govern Sicily.

On 25 November, Bersani came ahead in the first round of the primary election with 44.9% of the vote, Renzi came second with 35.5%, followed by Vendola (15.6%), Puppato (2.6%) and Tabacci (1.4%). Bersani did better in the South while Renzi prevailed in Tuscany, Umbria and Marche.[60] In the subsequent run-off, on 2 December, Bersani trounced Renzi 60.9% to 39.1% by winning in each and every single region but Tuscany, where Renzi won 54.9% of the vote. The PD secretary did particularly well in Lazio (67.8%), Campania (69.4%), Apulia (71.4%), Basilicata (71.7%), Calabria (74.4%), Sicily (66.5%) and Sardinia (73.5%).[61]

2013 general election[edit]

Enrico Letta in 2013

In the election, the PD and its coalition fared much worse than expected and according to pollsters predictions. The PD won just 25.4% of the vote for the Chamber of Deputies (–8.0% from 2008) and the centre-left coalition narrowly won the majority in the house over the centre-right coalition (29.5% to 29.3%). Even worse, in the Senate the PD and its allies failed to get an outright majority due to the rise of the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-right's victory in key regions such as Lombardy, Veneto, Campania, Apulia, Calabria and Sicily (the centre-right was awarded of the majority premium in those regions, leaving the centre-left with just a handful of elects there). Consequently, the PD-led coalition was unable to govern alone because it lacked a majority in the Senate which has equal power to the Chamber. As a result, Bersani, who refused any agreement with the PdL and was rejected by the M5S, failed to form a government.

After an agreement with the centre-right parties, Bersani put forward Franco Marini as his party's candidate for President to succeed to Giorgio Napolitano on 17 April. However, Renzi, several Democratic delegates and SEL did not support Marini.[62] On 18 April, Marini received just 521 votes in the first ballot, short of the 672 needed,[63] as more than 200 centre-left delegates rebelled. On 19 April, the PD and SEL selected Romano Prodi to be their candidate in the fourth ballot.[64] Despite his candidacy had received unanimous support among the two parties' delegates, Prodi obtained only 395 votes in the fourth ballot[63] as more than 100 centre-left electors did not vote for him.[65] After the vote, Prodi pulled out of the race and Bersani resigned as party secretary.[66] Bindi, the party's president, also resigned. The day after, Napolitano accepted to stand again for election and was re-elected President with the support of most parliamentary parties.

On 28 April, Enrico Letta, the party's deputy secretary and former Christian Democrat, was sworn in as Prime Minister of Italy at the head of a government based around a grand coalition including the PdL, Civic Choice (SC) and the UdC. Letta was the first Democrat to become Prime Minister.

Leadership of Guglielmo Epifani[edit]

After Bersani's resignation from party secretary on 20 April 2013, the PD remained without a leader for two weeks. On 11 May 2013, Guglielmo Epifani was elected secretary at the national assembly of the party with 85.8% of vote. Epifani, secretary-general of the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), Italy's largest trade union, from 2002 to 2010, was the first former Socialist to lead the party. Epifani's mission was to lead the party toward a national convention in October.[67]

A few weeks after Epifani's election as secretary, the PD had a success in the 2013 local elections, winning in 69 comuni (including Rome and all the other 14 provincial capitals up for election) while the PdL won 22 and the M5S 1.[68]

The decision, on 9 November, that the PD would organise the next congress of the Party of European Socialists (PES) in Rome in early 2014, sparked protests among some of the party's Christian democrats, who opposed PES membership.[69]

Epifani was little more than a secretary pro tempore and in fact frequently repeated that he was not going to run for a full term as secretary in the leadership race that would take place in late 2013, saying that his candidacy would be a betrayal of his mandate.[70][71][72][73]

Leadership of Matteo Renzi[edit]

Four individuals filed their bid for becoming secretary, namely Matteo Renzi, Pippo Civati, Gianni Cuperlo and Gianni Pittella.[74] The leadership race started with voting by party members in local conventions (7–17 November). Renzi came first with 45.3%, followed by Cuperlo (39.4%), Civati (9.4%) and Pittella (5.8%).[75] The first three were admitted to the open primary.

On 8 December, Renzi, who won in all regions but was stronger in the Centre-North, trounced his opponents with 67.6% of the vote. Cuperlo, whose support was higher in the South, came second with 18.2% while Civati, whose message did well with northern urban and progressive voters, came third with 14.2%.[76] On 15 December, Renzi, whose executive included many young people and a majority of women,[77] was proclaimed secretary by the party's national assembly while Cuperlo was elected president as proposed by Renzi.[78]

On 20 January 2014, Cuperlo criticized the electoral reform proposed by Renzi in agreement with Berlusconi, but the proposal was overwhelmingly approved by the party's national board.[79] The day after the vote, Cuperlo resigned from president.[80] He was later replaced by Matteo Orfini, who hailed from the party's left-wing, but since then became more and more supportive of Renzi.

After frequent calls by Renzi for a new phase, the national board decided to put an end to Letta's government on 13 February and form a new one led by Renzi as the latter had proposed.[81][82] Subsequently, Renzi was sworn in as Prime Minister on 22 February at the head of an identical coalition.[83] On 28 February, the PD officially joined the PES as a full member,[84] ending a decade-long debate.

Premiership of Matteo Renzi[edit]

In the 2014 European Parliament election, the party obtained 40.8% of the vote and 31 seats. The party's score was virtually 15 percentage points up from five years before and the best result for an Italian party in a nationwide election since the 1958 general election, when Christian Democracy won 42.4%. The PD was also the largest national party within the Parliament in its 8th term.[85] Following his party's success, Renzi was able to secure the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy within the European Commission for Federica Mogherini, his minister of Foreign Affairs.[86]

In January 2015, Sergio Mattarella, a veteran left-wing Christian Democrat and founding member of the PD, whose candidacy had been proposed by Renzi and unanimously endorsed by the party's delegates, was elected President of Italy during a presidential election triggered by President Giorgio Napolitano's resignation.

During Renzi's first year as Prime Minister, several MPs defected from other parties to join the PD. They comprised splinters from SEL (most of whom led by Gennaro Migliore, see Freedom and Rights), SC (notably including Stefania Giannini, Pietro Ichino and Andrea Romano) and the M5S. Consequently, the party increased its parliamentary numbers to 311 deputies and 114 senators by April 2015.[87][88] Otherwise, Sergio Cofferati,[89] Giuseppe Civati[90] and Stefano Fassina[91] left. They were the first and most notable splinters among the ranks of the party's internal left, but several others followed either Civati (who launched Possible) or Fassina (who launched Future to the Left and Italian Left) in the following months.[92] By May 2016, the PD's parliamentary numbers had gone down to 303 deputies and 114 senators.[87][88]

In the 2015 regional elections, Democratic Presidents were elected (or re-elected) in five regions out of seven, namely Enrico Rossi in Tuscany, Luca Ceriscioli in Marche, Catiuscia Marini in Umbria, Vincenzo De Luca in Campania and Michele Emiliano in Apulia. As a result, 16 regions out of 20, including all those of central and southern Italy, were governed by the centre-left while the opposition Lega Nord led Veneto and Lombardy and propped up a centre-right government in Liguria.

Road to the 2018 general election[edit]

After a huge defeat in the 2016 constitutional referendum (59.9% no, 40.1% yes), Renzi resigned as Prime Minister in December 2016 and was replaced by fellow Democrat Paolo Gentiloni, whose government's composition and coalition were very similar to those of the Renzi Cabinet. In February 2017, Renzi resigned also as PD secretary in order to run in the 2017 leadership election.[93][94][95][96][97] Renzi, Andrea Orlando (one of the leaders of the Remake Italy faction; the other leader Matteo Orfini was the party's president and supported Renzi) and Michele Emiliano were the three contenders for the party's leadership.[98]

Subsequently, a substantial group of leftists (24 deputies, 14 senators and 3 MEPs), led by Enrico Rossi (Democratic Socialists) and Roberto Speranza (Reformist Area), backed by Massimo D'Alema, Pier Luigi Bersani and Guglielmo Epifani, left the PD and formed Article 1 – Democratic and Progressive Movement (MDP), along with splinters from the Italian Left (SI) led by Arturo Scotto.[99][100][101][102][103] Most of the splinters as well as Scotto were former Democrats of the Left. In December 2017, the MDP, SI and Possible would launch Free and Equal (LeU) under the leadership of the President of the Senate Pietro Grasso[104][105] (another PD splinter).[106][107][108]

Renzi speaks at Lingotto convention

In local conventions, Renzi came first (66.7%), Orlando second (25.3%) and Emiliano third (8.0%). In the open primary on 30 April, Renzi won 69.2% of the vote as opposed to Orlando's 20.0% and Emiliano's 10.9%.[109][110] On 7 May, Renzi was sworn in as secretary again, with Maurizio Martina as deputy and Orfini was confirmed president.

In the 2017 Sicilian regional election, Crocetta did not stand and the PD-led coalition was defeated.

In the run-up of the 2018 general election, the PD tried to form a broad centre-left coalition, but only minor parties showed interest. As a result, the alliance comprised Together (a list notably including the Italian Socialist Party and the Federation of the Greens), the Popular Civic List (notably including Popular Alternative, Italy of Values, the Centrists for Europe and Solidary Democracy) and More Europe (including the Italian Radicals, Forza Europa and the Democratic Centre).

2018 general election[edit]

In the election, the PD obtained its worst result ever: 18.7% of the vote, well behind the M5S (32.7%) and narrowly ahead of the Lega (17.4%). Following his party's defeat, Renzi resigned from secretary[111] and his deputy Martina started functioning as acting secretary.

After two months of negotiations and the refusal of the PD to join forces with the M5S,[112] the latter and the Lega formed a government under Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, a M5S-proposed independent. Thus, the party returned to opposition after virtually seven years and experienced some internal turmoil as its internal factions started to re-position themselves in the new context. Both Gentiloni and Franceschini distanced from Renzi[113] while Carlo Calenda, a former minister in Renzi's and Gentiloni's governments who had joined the party soon after the election,[114] proposed to merge the PD into a larger republican front.[115][116] However, according to several observers Renzi's grip over the party was still strong and he was still the PD's leader behind the scenes.[117][118]

Leadership of Maurizio Martina[edit]

In July, Maurizio Martina was elected secretary by the party's national assembly and a new leadership election was scheduled for the first semester of 2019.[119] On 17 November 2018, Martina resigned and the national assembly was dissolved, starting the electoral proceedings.[120]

During Martina's tenure, especially after a rally in Rome in September,[121] the party started to prepare for the leadership election.

In January 2019, Calenda launched the "We Are Europeans" manifesto advocating for a pro-Europeanist joint list at the upcoming European Parliament election.[122] Among those who signed there were several Democratic regional presidents and mayors as well as Giuseppe Sala and Giuliano Pisapia, two independents who are the current mayor of Milan and his predecessor, respectively.[123] Calenda aimed at uniting the PD, More Europe and the GreensItalia in Comune.[124][125]

Leadership of Nicola Zingaretti[edit]

Three major candidates, Martina, Nicola Zingaretti and Roberto Giachetti, plus a handful of minor ones, formally filed papers in order to run for secretary. Prior to that, Marco Minniti, minister of the Interior in the Gentiloni Cabinet, had also launched his bid,[126][127] before renouncing in December[128][129] and supporting Zingaretti.[130] Zingaretti won the first round by receiving 47.4% of the vote among party members in local conventions. He, along with Martina and Giachetti, qualified for the primary election, to be held on 3 March. In the event, Zingaretti was elected secretary, exceeding expectations and winning 66.0% of the vote while Martina and Giachetti won 22.0% and 12.0%, respectively.[131][132]

Zingaretti was officially appointed by the national assembly, on 17 March.[133] On the same day, former Prime Minister Gentiloni was elected as the party's new president.[134] A month later, Zingaretti appointed Andrea Orlando and Paola De Micheli as deputy secretaries.[135]

In the run-up to the 2019 European Parliament election Zingaretti presented a special logo including a large reference to "We Are Europeans" and the symbol of the PES. Additionally, the party forged an alliance with Article One.[136] In the election, the PD garnered 22.7% of the vote, finishing second after the League.[137] Calenda was the most voted candidate of the party.[138]

On 3 July 2019 David Sassoli, a member of the PD, was elected President of the European Parliament.[139]

Coalition with the Five Star Movement[edit]

In August 2019 tensions grew within Conte's government coalition, leading to the issuing of a motion of no-confidence on Prime Minister Conte by the League.[140] After Conte's resignation, the national board of the PD officially opened to the possibility of forming a new cabinet in a coalition with the M5S,[141] based on pro-Europeanism, green economy, sustainable development, fight against economic inequality and a new immigration policy.[142] The party also accepted that Conte may continue at the head of a new government,[143] and on 29 August President Mattarella formally invested Conte to do so.[144] Disappointed by the party's decision to form a government with the M5S, Calenda decided to leave and establish We Are Europeans as an independent party.[145]

The Conte II Cabinet took office on 5 September, with Franceschini as Minister of Culture and head of the PD's delegation.[146] Gentiloni was contextually picked by the government as the Italian member of the von der Leyen Commission[147] and would serve as European Commissioner for the Economy.[148]

On 18 September, Renzi, who had been one of the earliest supporters of a M5S–PD pact in August,[149] left the PD and established a new centrist party named Italia Viva (IV).[150] 24 deputies and 13 senators (including Renzi) left.[151] However, not all supporters of Renzi followed him in the split: while the Always Forward and Back to the Future factions mostly followed him, most members of Reformist Base remained in the party.[152] Other MPs and one MEP joined IV afterwards.

From 15 to 17 November, the party held a three-days convention in Bologna, named Tutta un'altra storia ("A whole different story"), with the aim of presenting party's proposals for the 2020s decade.[153] The convention was characterized by a strong leftward move, stressing a strong distance from liberal and centrist policies promoted under Renzi's leadership.[154][155] Some newspapers, like La Stampa, compared Zingaretti's new policies to Jeremy Corbyn's.[156] On 17 November the party's national assembly approved the new party's statute, featuring the separation between the roles of party secretary and candidate for Prime Minister.[157]

Starting from November 2019, the grassroots Sardines movement began in the region of Emilia-Romagna, aimed at contrasting the rise of right-wing populism and the League in the region. The movement endorsed the PD's candidate Stefano Bonaccini in the upcoming Emilia-Romagna regional election.[158] In the next months the movement grew to a national level. On 26 January Bonaccini was re-elected wuth 51.4% of the vote. On the same day, in the Calabrian regional election, the centre-left candidate supported by the PD lost to the centre-right candidate Jole Santelli, who won with 55.3% of the vote.[159]

In February 2020 the party's national assembly unanimously elected its new president, Valentina Cuppi, mayor of Marzabotto.[11]

In the September 2020 regional elections the party lost Marche to the centre-right, but held Tuscany, Campania and Apulia.[160]

Draghi's national unity government[edit]

On 13 January 2021 Renzi's IV withdrew its support for the second Conte cabinet, triggering the 2021 Italian government crisis.[161] The government won motions of confidence in both chambers of Parliament, but still lacked an overall majority, leading to Conte's resignation.[162] In resulting discussions, Zingaretti and the PD pushed for Conte to be reappointed Prime Minister.[163] They participated in negotiations with the M5S, IV, and LeU, from 30 January to 2 February, but IV ultimately rejected the option of a renewed coalition.[164] President Mattarella then appointed Mario Draghi to form a cabinet,[165] which won support from the League and Forza Italia (FI) on 10 February.[166] The PD's national board voted unanimously to join the new government on 11 February.[167] Later that day, the M5S also agreed to support the cabinet in an online referendum.[168] The PD had three ministers in the Draghi Cabinet: Lorenzo Guerini, who remained Minister of Defence; Andrea Orlando, the new Minister of Labour and Social Policies; and Dario Franceschini, who retained a modified Minister of Culture portfolio.[169]

Leadership of Enrico Letta[edit]

In the midst of the formation of Draghi's government, Zingaretti was heavily criticized by the party's minority for his management of the crisis and strenuous support to Conte. On 4 March, after weeks of internal turmoil, Zingaretti announced his resignation as secretary, stating that he was "ashamed of the power struggles" within the party.[170] In the next days, many prominent members of the PD, including Zingaretti himself, but also former Prime Minister Gentiloni, former party secretary Franceschini and President of Emilia-Romagna Bonaccini, publicly asked former Prime Minister Enrico Letta to become the new leader of the party.[171][172] Following an initial reluctancy, Letta stated that he needed a few days to evaluate the option.[173] On 12 March, he officially accepted his candidacy as new party's leader.[174][175] On 14 March, the national assembly of the PD elected Letta secretary with 860 votes in favour, 2 against and 4 abstentions.[176]

On 17 March, Letta appointed Irene Tinagli and Peppe Provenzano as his deputy secretaries.[177] On the following day, he appointed the party's new executive, composed of eight men and eight women.[178] Later that month, Letta forced the two Democratic leaders in Parliament, Graziano Delrio and Andrea Marcucci, to resign and proposed the election of two female leaders.[179] On 25 and 30 March, senators and deputies elected Simona Malpezzi and Debora Serracchiani as their leaders in the Senate and in the Chamber.[180][181]


The PD is a big tent centre-left party, influenced by the ideas of social democracy and 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 Italian Communist Party and Christian Democracy (the two major forerunners of the Democrats of the Left and Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy, respectively) cooperate. Modern American liberalism is an important source of inspiration.[182][183][184][185] In a 2008 interview to El País, Veltroni, who can be considered the main founding father of the party, clearly stated that the PD should be considered a reformist party and could not be linked to the traditional values of the political left.[186]

There is also a debate on whether the PD is actually a social-democratic party and to what extent. Alfred Pfaller observed that the PD "has adopted a pronounced centrist-pragmatic position, trying to appeal to a broad spectrum of middle-class and working-class voters, but shying away from a determined pursuit of redistributive goals".[187] Gianfranco Pasquino commented that "for almost all the leaders, militants and members of the PD, social democracy has never been part of their past nor should represent their political goal", adding that "its overall identity and perception are by no means those of a European-style social-democratic party".[3] The party's economics policies accepted economic liberal elements under Renzi's leadership, moving towards adopting more explicitly neoliberal and monetarist policies as a result of the Third Way philosophy adopted by European social-democratic parties.[188][189]

The party stresses national and social cohesion, progressivism, a moderate social liberalism, green issues, progressive taxation, and pro-Europeanism. In this respect, the party's precursors strongly supported the need of balancing budgets in order to comply to Maastricht criteria. Under Veltroni and Renzi, 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.[citation needed]

While traditionally supporting the social integration of immigrants, the PD has adopted a more critical approach on the issue since 2017.[190][191] Inspired by Renzi, re-elected secretary in April; and Marco Minniti, interior minister since December 2016, the party promoted stricter policies regarding immigration and public security.[192][193] These policies resulted in broad criticism from the left-wing Democrats and Progressives (partners in government) as well as left-leaning intellectuals like Roberto Saviano and Gad Lerner.[194] In August, Lerner, who was among the founding members of the PD, left the party altogether due to its new immigration policies.[195]

Ideological trends[edit]

The PD is a diverse party, including several distinct ideological trends:[196]

It is not an easy task to include the trend represented by Matteo Renzi, whose supporters have been known as Big Bangers, Now!, or more frequently Renziani, in any of the categories above. The nature of Renzi's progressivism is a matter of debate and has been linked both to liberalism and populism.[197][198][199][200][201] According to Maria Teresa Meli of Corriere della Sera, Renzi "pursues a precise model, borrowed from the Labour Party and Bill Clinton's Democratic Party", comprising "a strange mix (for Italy) of liberal policies in the economic sphere and populism. This means that, on one side, he will attack the privileges of trade unions, especially of the CGIL, which defends only the already protected, while, on the other, he will sharply attack the vested powers, bankers, Confindustria and a certain type of capitalism ... ".[202] After Renzi led some of his followers out of the party and launched the alternative Italia Viva party, a good chunk of Renziani (especially those affiliated to Reformist Base and Liberal PD) remained in the PD. Other leading former Renziani notably include Lorenzo Guerini, Graziano Delrio (party leader in the Chamber) and Andrea Marcucci (party leader in the Senate).

International affiliation[edit]

International affiliation was quite a controversial issue for the PD in its early days and it was settled only in 2014.

Renzi speaks at the 2014 congress of the Party of European Socialists in Rome

The debate on which European political party to join saw the former Democrats of the Left 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 (EDP), a component of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group. After the party's formation in 2007, 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 2009 European Parliament election, the party's 21 MEPs chose to unite for the new term within the European parliamentary group of the PES, which was renamed the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).[203]

On 15 December 2012, PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani attended in Rome the founding convention of the Progressive Alliance (PA), a nascent political international for parties dissatisfied with the continued admittance and inclusion of authoritarian movements into the Socialist International (SI).[204][205] On 22 May 2013, the PD was a founding member of the PA at the international's official inauguration in Leipzig, Germany on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the formation of the General German Workers' Association, the oldest of the two parties which merged in 1875 in order to form the Social Democratic Party of Germany.[206]

Matteo Renzi, a centrist who led the party in 2013–2018, wanted the party to join both the SI and the PES.[207][208][209] On 20 February 2014, the PD leadership applied for full membership of the PES.[210][211] In Renzi's view, the party would count more as a member of a major European party and within the PES it would join forces with alike parties such as the British Labour Party. On 28 February, the PD was welcomed as a full member into the PES.[84]


The PD includes several internal factions, most of which trace the previous allegiances of party members. Factions form different alliances depending on the issues and some party members have multiple factional allegiances.

2007 leadership election[edit]

After the election, which saw the victory of Walter Veltroni, the party's internal composition was as follows:

2009 leadership election[edit]

After the election, which saw the victory of Pier Luigi Bersani, the party's internal composition was as follows:

2010–2013 developments[edit]

In the summer of 2010, Dario Franceschini, leader of AreaDem (the largest minority faction) and Piero Fassino re-approached with Pier Luigi Bersani and joined the party majority.[212] As a response, Walter Veltroni formed Democratic Movement to defend the "original spirit" of the PD.[212] In doing this he was supported by 75 deputies: 33 Veltroniani, 35 Populars close to Giuseppe Fioroni and 7 former Rutelliani led by Paolo Gentiloni.[213][214][215] Some pundits hinted that the Bersani-Franceschini pact was envisioned in order both to marginalise Veltroni and to reduce the influence of Massimo D'Alema, the party bigwig behind Bersani, whose 2009 bid was supported primarily by Dalemiani. Veltroni and D'Alema had been long-time rivals within the centre-left.[216]

As of September the party's majority was composed of those who supported Bersani since the beginning (divided in five main factions: Bersaniani, Dalemiani, Lettiani, Bindiani and the party's left-wing) and AreaDem of Franceschini and Fassino. There were also two minority coalitions, namely Veltroni's Democratic Movement (Veltroniani, Fioroni's Populars, ex-Rutelliani, Democratic Ecologists and a majority of Liberal PD members) and Change Italy of Ignazio Marino.[217]

According to Corriere della Sera in November 2011, the party was divided mainly in three ideological camps battling for its soul:

Since November 2011, similar differences surfaced in the party over Monti Cabinet. While the party's right-wing, especially Liberal PD, was enthusiastic in its support, Fassina and other leftists, especially those linked to trade unions, were critical.[220][221][222][223] In February 2012, Fassina published a book in which he described his view as "neo-labourite humanism" and explained it in connection with Catholic social teaching, saying that his "neo-labourism" was designed to attract Catholic voters.[224] Once again, his opposition to economic liberalism was strongly criticized by the party's right-wing as well as by Stefano Ceccanti, a leading Catholic in the party and supporter of Tony Blair's New Labour, who said that a leftist platform à la Fassina would never win back the Catholic vote in places like Veneto.[225]

According to YouTrend, a website, 35% of the Democratic deputies and senators elected in the 2013 general election were Bersaniani, 23% members of AreaDem (or Democratic Movement), 13% Renziani, 6% Lettiani, 4.5% Dalemiani, 4.5% Young Turks/Remake Italy, 2% Bindiani and 1.5% Civatiani.[226]

As the party performed below expectations, more Democrats started to look at Renzi, who had been defeated by Bersani in the 2012 primary election to select the centre-left's candidate for Prime Minister.[227] In early September, two leading centrists, namely Franceschini and Fioroni (leaders of Democratic Area and The Populars), endorsed Renzi.[228] Two former leaders of the Democrats of the Left, Veltroni and Fassino,[229] also decided to support Renzi while a third, D'Alema, endorsed Gianni Cuperlo.[230]

In October, four candidates filed their bid to become secretary, namey Renzi, Cuperlo, Pippo Civati and Gianni Pittella.[74]

2013 leadership election[edit]

After the election, which saw the victory of Matteo Renzi, the party's internal composition was as follows:

2014–2016 alignments[edit]

After 2013 leadership election, the party's main factions[242][243][244] were the following:

2017 leadership election[edit]

After the election which saw the victory of Matteo Renzi, the party's internal composition was as follows:

2019 leadership election[edit]

After the election which saw the victory of Nicola Zingaretti, the party's internal composition was as follows:[259]

After the leadership election, supporters of Martina divided in two camps: the liberal and centrist wing close to Renzi (including Lorenzo Guerini and Luca Lotti) formed Reformist Base, while social-democrats (including Martina, Tommaso Nannicini and Debora Serracchiani), as well as some leading centrists (Delrio and Richetti) formed Side by Side. Additionally, hard-core Renziani, led by Giachetti, formed Always Forward. Others, led by Ettore Rosato, formed Back to the Future.[264]

Popular support[edit]

As previously the Italian Communist Party (PCI), the PD has its strongholds in Central Italy and big cities. The party governs six regions out of twenty and the cities of Milan, Bologna, Florence and Bari. It also takes part to the government of several other cities, including Padua and Palermo.

In the 2008 and 2013 general elections, the PD obtained its best results in Tuscany (46.8% and 37.5%), Emilia-Romagna (45.7% and 37.0%), Umbria (44.4% and 32.1%), Marche (41.4% and 27.7%), Liguria (37.6% and 27.7%) and Lazio (36.8% and 25.7%). Democrats are generally stronger in the North than the South, with the sole exception of Basilicata (38.6% in 2008 and 25.7% in 2013),[265] where the party has drawn most of its personnel from Christian Democracy (DC).[266]

The 2014 European Parliament election gave a thumping 40.8% of the vote to the party which was the first Italian party to get more than 40% of the vote in a nationwide election since DC won 42.4% of the vote in the 1958 general election. In 2014, the PD did better in Tuscany (56.6%), Emilia-Romagna (52.5%) and Umbria (49.2%), but made significant gains in Lombardy (40.3%, +19.0% from 2009), Veneto (37.5%, +17.2%) and the South. The 2018 general election was a major defeat for the party as it was reduced to 18.7% (Tuscany 29.6%).

The electoral results of the PD in general (Chamber of Deputies) and European Parliament elections since 2008 are shown in the chart below.

The electoral results of the PD in the 10 most populated regions of Italy are shown in the table below and in the chart electoral results in Italy are shown.

2008 general 2009 European 2010 regional 2013 general 2014 European 2015 regional 2018 general 2019 European 2020 regional
Piedmont 32.4 24.7 23.2 25.1 40.8 41.0[a] (2014) 20.5 23.9 -
Lombardy 28.1 21.3 22.9 25.6 40.3 32.4[b] (2013) 21.1 23.1 22.3[c] (2018)
Veneto 26.5 20.3 20.3 21.3 37.5 20.5[d] 16.7 18.9 -
Emilia-Romagna 45.7 38.6 40.6 37.0 52.5 44.5 (2014) 26.4 31.2 34.7
Tuscany 46.8 38.7 42.2 37.5 56.6 46.3 29.6 33.3 -
Lazio 36.8 28.1 26.3 25.7 39.2 34.2[e] (2013) 18.7 23.8 25.5[f] (2018)
Campania 29.2 23.4 21.4 21.9 36.1 29.2[g] 13.2 19.1 -
Apulia 30.1 21.7 20.8 18.5 33.6 32.1[h] 13.7 16.6 -
Calabria 32.6 25.4 22.8[i] 22.4 35.8 36.2[j] (2014) 14.3 18.3 -
Sicily 25.4 21.9 18.8 (2008) 18.6 34.9 21.2[k] (2017) 11.5 16.6 -
  1. ^ Combined result of the PD (36.2%) and Sergio Chiamparino's personal list (4.8%).
  2. ^ Combined result of the PD (25.3%) and Umberto Ambrosoli's personal list (7.0%).
  3. ^ Combined result of the PD (19.2%) and Giorgio Gori's personal list (3.0%).
  4. ^ Combined result of the PD (16.7%) and Alessandra Moretti's personal list (3.8%).
  5. ^ Combined result of the PD (29.7%) and Nicola Zingaretti's personal list (4.5%).
  6. ^ Combined result of the PD (21.2%) and Nicola Zingaretti's personal list (4.3%).
  7. ^ Combined result of the PD (19.5%), Vincenzo De Luca's personal list (4.9%) and Free Campania (4.8%).
  8. ^ Combined result of the PD (18.8%) and Michele Emiliano's personal lists (9.2%+4.1%).
  9. ^ Combined result of the PD (15.8%) and Agazio Loiero's personal list (7.0%).
  10. ^ Combined result of the PD (23.7%) and Mario Oliverio's personal list (12.5%).
  11. ^ Combined result of the PD (13.0%), the PD-sponsored Pact of Democrats for Reforms and Fabrizio Micari's personal list (2.2%).

Electoral results[edit]

Italian Parliament[edit]

Chamber of Deputies
Election year Votes % Seats +/− Leader
2008 12,434,260 (2nd) 33.1
217 / 630
Walter Veltroni
2013 8,934,009 (1st) 25.5
297 / 630
Increase 80
Pier Luigi Bersani
2018 6,161,896 (2nd) 18.8
112 / 630
Decrease 185
Matteo Renzi
Senate of the Republic
Election year Votes % Seats +/− Leader
2008 11,052,577 (2nd) 33.1
118 / 315
Walter Veltroni
2013 8,400,255 (1st) 27.4
112 / 315
Decrease 6
Pier Luigi Bersani
2018 5,783,360 (2nd) 19.1
54 / 315
Decrease 58
Matteo Renzi

European Parliament[edit]

European Parliament
Election year Votes % Seats +/− Leader
2009 8,008,203 (2nd) 26.1
21 / 72
Dario Franceschini
2014 11,203,231 (1st) 40.8
31 / 73
Increase 10
Matteo Renzi
2019 6,089,853 (2nd) 22.7
19 / 76
Decrease 12
Nicola Zingaretti

Regional Councils[edit]

Region Election year Votes % Seats +/−
Aosta Valley 2020 10,106 (3rd) 15.3
7 / 35
Increase 7
Piedmont 2019 430,902 (2nd) 22.4
10 / 51
Decrease 17
Lombardy 2018 1,008,496 (2nd) 19.2
16 / 80
Decrease 1
South Tyrol 2018 10,806 (7th) 3.8
1 / 35
Decrease 1
Trentino 2018 35,530 (2nd) 13.9
5 / 35
Decrease 2
Veneto 2020 244,881 (3rd) 11.9
7 / 51
Decrease 2
Friuli-Venezia Giulia 2018 76,423 (2nd) 18.1
10 / 49
Decrease 10
Emilia-Romagna 2020 749,976 (1st) 34.7
23 / 50
Decrease 7
Liguria 2020 124,586 (2nd) 19.9
7 / 31
Decrease 1
Tuscany 2020 560,981 (1st) 34.7
23 / 41
Decrease 2
Marche 2020 156,394 (1st) 25.1
8 / 31
Decrease 8
Umbria 2019 93,296 (2nd) 22.3
5 / 21
Decrease 6
Lazio 2018 539,131 (2nd) 21.2
18 / 51
Decrease 6
Abruzzo 2019 66,796 (3rd) 11.1
4 / 31
Decrease 7
Molise 2018 13,122 (3rd) 9.0
2 / 21
Decrease 1
Campania 2020 398,490 (1st) 16.9
9 / 51
Decrease 7
Apulia 2020 289,188 (1st) 17.3
17 / 51
Increase 3
Basilicata 2019 22,423 (5th) 7.7
3 / 21
Decrease 9
Calabria 2021 100,437 (2nd) 13.2
5 / 31
Decrease 1
Sicily 2017 250,633 (3rd) 13.0
12 / 70
Decrease 11
Sardinia 2019 96,235 (1st) 13.5
8 / 60
Decrease 11


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  259. ^ "Primarie PD: i risultati in diretta". 3 March 2019.
  260. ^ a b c Falci, Giuseppe Alberto (25 November 2018). "Il Pd verso le primarie: ecco chi sostiene chi I volti". Corriere della Sera.
  261. ^ "Pd, Gentiloni: "Zingaretti può aprire una stagione nuova"". 11 November 2018.
  262. ^ "Congresso Pd, Areadem di Franceschini e Fassino appoggerà Zingaretti. Resta il nodo assenza donne tra la candidate". Il Fatto Quotidiano. 13 November 2018.
  263. ^ "Orlando: "Zingaretti può portare elementi di discontinuità nel Pd"" – via
  264. ^ "Associazioni e fondazioni, nel Pd si riorganizzano le varie componenti (di R. F. Calvo)". L'HuffPost. 10 April 2019.
  265. ^ "::: Ministero dell'Interno ::: Archivio Storico delle Elezioni".
  266. ^ Basilicata, quei «cavalli da tiro» eredi della Dc: tutti al potere giovanissimi (e tutti indagati)
  267. ^ 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).

External links[edit]

Media related to Partito Democratico at Wikimedia Commons