Italian general election, 1953

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Italian general election, 1953
Italy
1948 ←
June 7, 1953 (1953-06-07) → 1958

All 590 seats to the Italian Chamber of Deputies
and 237 (of the 243) seats to the Italian Senate
Turnout 93.8%
  Majority party Minority party Third party
  Alcide de Gasperi 2.jpg Palmiro Togliatti Official.jpg Pietro Nenni 2.jpg
Leader Alcide De Gasperi Palmiro Togliatti Pietro Nenni
Party Christian Democracy Communist Party Socialist Party
Leader since 1944 1938 1931
Last election 305 & 131 seats, 48.5% 130 & 50 seats, inside the Front 53 & 22 seats, inside the Front
Seats won 263 (H)
116 (S)
143 (H)
56 (S)
75 (H)
30 (S)
Seat change Decrease57 Increase19 Increase30
Popular vote 10,862,073 6,120,809 3,441,014
Percentage 40.1% 22.6% 12.7%
Swing Decrease8.4% Increase0.6%[1] Increase3.7%[1]

Italian Election 1953 Province.png

Legislative election results map. Light Blue denotes provinces with a Christian Democratic plurality, Red denotes those with a Communist plurality, Gray denotes those with an Autonomist plurality.

Prime Minister before election

Alcide De Gasperi
Christian Democracy

New Prime Minister

Alcide De Gasperi
Christian Democracy

General elections were held in Italy on Sunday June 7, 1953, to choose the Second Republican Parliament.[2] They were a test for leading centrist coalition ruled by Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi.

The Scam Law[edit]

The election was characterized by changes in the electoral law. Even if the general structure remained uncorrupted, the government introduced a superbonus of two thirds of seats in the House for the coalition which would obtain at-large the absolute majority of votes. The change was hugely opposed by the opposition parties as well as the smaller DC coalition partners, which had no realistic chances of success. The new law was called Scam Law by its detractors,[3] including some dissidents of minor government parties who founded special opposition groups to deny the artificial landslide to the Christian Democracy.

Historical background[edit]

In the 1950s Italy became a founding member of the NATO alliance (1949), a member of the United Nations (1955) and an ally of the United States, which helped to revive the Italian economy through the Marshall Plan. In the same years, Italy also became a founding member of the ECSC (1952) and of the European Economic Community (1957), later developed into the European Union. At the end of the 1950s an impressive economic growth was termed "Economic Miracle". Italian families used their newfound wealth to purchase consumer durables for the first time. Between 1958 and 1965, the percentage of families owning a television rose from 12% to 49%, washing machines from 3% to 23%, and fridges from 13% to 55%. As noted by the historian Paul Ginsborg

Christian Democracy's main support areas (sometimes known as "vote tanks") were the rural areas in South, Center and North-East Italy, whereas the industrial North-West had more left-leaning support because of the larger working class. An interesting exception were the "red regions" (Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria) where the Italian Communist Party has historically had a wide support. This is considered a consequence of the particular share-cropping ("mezzadria") farming contracts used in these regions.

The Holy See actively supported the Christian Democracy, judging it would be a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for the Communist party and excommunicating all its supporters. In practice, however, many Communists remained religious: Emilia was known to be an area where people were both religious and communists. Giovanni Guareschi wrote his novels about Don Camillo describing a village, Brescello, whose inhabitants are at the same time loyal to priest Camillo and communist mayor Peppone, who are fierce rivals.

In 1953, a Parliamentary Commission on poverty estimated that 24% of Italian families were either “destitute” or “in hardship,” 21% of dwellings were overcrowded, 52% of homes in the south had no running drinking water, and only 57% had a lavatory.[4] In the 1950s, several important reforms were launched: e.g. agrarian reform (legge Scelba), fiscal reform (legge Vanoni), and the country enjoyed a period of extraordinary economic development (miracolo economico, economic miracle). In this period of time, a massive population transfer, from the impoverished South to the booming industrial North, took place. This however exacerbated social contrasts, including between the old-established "worker aristocracy" and the new less qualified immigrants ("operaio-massa") of Southern origin. In addition, a wide gap between rich and poor continued to exist. By the end of the Sixties, it was estimated that 4 million Italians (out of a population of 54.5 million) were unemployed, underemployed, and casual labourers. As noted by the historian Paul Ginsborg, the affluent society to this section of the Italian population “might have meant a television set but precious little else.”

Parties and leaders[edit]

Party Ideology Leader
Christian Democracy (DC) Christian democracy, Popularism Alcide De Gasperi
Italian Communist Party (PCI) Communism, Marxism-Leninism Palmiro Togliatti
Italian Socialist Party (PSI) Socialism, Democratic socialism Pietro Nenni
Monarchist National Party (PNM) Monarchism, Conservatism Alfredo Covelli
Italian Social Movement (MSI) Neo-Fascism, Italian nationalism Augusto De Marsanich
Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI) Social democracy, Centrism Giuseppe Saragat
Italian Liberal Party (PLI) Liberalism, Conservatism Bruno Villabruna
Italian Republican Party (PRI) Republicanism, Social liberalism Oronzo Reale

Results[edit]

The complaint campaign of the oppositions against the Scam Law reached its goal. The government coalition (DC, PSDI, PLI, PRI, SVP, PSAZ) was stopped at an incredible 49.9% of national vote, resulting in the ordinary proportional distribution of the seats. Minor dissident parties resulted determinant for the final result, especially the short-lived National Democratic Alliance. Leading party Christian Democracy did not repeat the extraordinary result of five years before, which had been obtained under special conditions linked to the Cold War, and lost a lot of votes to the right wing, which included resurgent fascist politicians particularly in Southern Italy.

Technically, the government won the election, reaching the majority of seats in both houses. But the frustration for the lack of the expected result caused big problems to the leading coalition. De Gasperi was forced to resign by the Parliament on August 2: the Trentin statesman consequently retired and died twelve months later. The legislature continued with weak governments, with minor parties refusing institutional responsibilities. Giuseppe Pella rose to power, but fell after five months only, following strong disputes about the status of the Free Territory of Trieste which Pella was claiming. Amintore Fanfani not receiving a vote of confidence, Mario Scelba and Antonio Segni followed with more traditional centrist coalitions supported by PSDI and PLI: under the administration of the first one, the problem of Trieste was closed ceding Koper to Yugoslavia. The parliamentary term was closed by the minority government chaired by Adone Zoli, finishing a legislature which hugely weakened the office of the Prime Minister, held by six different rulers.

Chamber of Deputies[edit]

Summary of the 18 April 1958 Chamber of Deputies election results
Italian Chamber of Deputies 1953.svg
Party Votes % Seats +/–
Christian Democracy 10,862,073 40.10 263 –41
Italian Communist Party 6,120,809 22.60 143
Italian Socialist Party 3,441,014 12.70 75
Monarchist National Party 1,854,850 6.85 40 +26
Italian Social Movement 1,582,154 5.84 29 +23
Italian Democratic Socialist Party 1,222,957 4.51 19 –14
Italian Liberal Party 815,929 3.01 13 –6
Italian Republican Party 438,149 1.62 5 –4
Independent Socialist Unity 225,409 0.83 0 New
Popular Unity 171,099 0.63 0 New
South Tyrolean People's Party 122,474 0.45 3
National Democratic Alliance 120,685 0.45 0 New
Sardinian Action Party 27,231 0.10 0 –1
Others 82,886 0.31 0
Invalid/blank votes 1,318,778
Total 28,406,479 100 590 +16
Registered voters/turnout 30,272,236 93.84
Source: Ministry of the Interior
Popular vote
DC
  
40.10%
PCI
  
22.60%
PSI
  
12.70%
PNM
  
6.85%
MSI
  
5.84%
PSDI
  
4.51%
PLI
  
3.01%
PRI
  
1.62%
Others
  
2.77%

Senate of the Republic[edit]

Summary of the 18 April 1953 Senate of the Republic election results
Italian Senate 1953.svg
Party Votes % Seats +/–
Christian Democracy 9,660,210 39.76 112 –19
Italian Communist Party 4,910,077 20.21 52 +1
Italian Socialist Party 2,891,605 11.90 26 –1
Monarchist National Party 1,581,128 6.51 14 +10
Italian Social Movement 1,473,645 6.07 9 +8
Italian Democratic Socialist Party 1,046,301 4.31 4 –4
Italian Liberal Party 695,816 2.86 3 –4
Italian Republican Party 261,713 1.08 0 –4
Popular Unity 172,545 0.71 0 New
National Democratic Alliance 165,845 0.68 1 New
South Tyrolean People's Party 107,139 0.44 2 0
Others 1,330,253 5.48 9
Invalid/blank votes 1,173,850
Total 25,483,201 100 237 0
Registered voters/turnout 27,172,871 93.8
Source: Ministry of the Interior
Popular vote
DC
  
39.76%
PCI
  
20.21%
PSI
  
11.90%
PNM
  
6.51%
MSI
  
6.07%
PSDI
  
4.31%
PLI
  
2.86%
PRI
  
1.08%
Others
  
7.30%

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Due to impossibility of direct confrontation cause the end of the political alliance which linked the Communists and the Socialists during the previous election of 1948, unofficial swing was calculated using the strength ratio (130:53) between the communist group and the socialist group in the House after the division.
  2. ^ Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p1048 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  3. ^ Also for the disruptive effect of its approval process in the Senate: see (Italian) Giampiero Buonomo, Come il Senato si scoprì vaso di coccio, in L’Ago e il filo, 2014.
  4. ^ Italy: Library of Nations: Italy, Time-Life Books, 1985