Italian general election, 1979

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Italian general election, 1979
1976 ←
June 3, 1979 → 1983

All 630 seats in the Italian Chamber of Deputies
316 seats were needed for a majority in the Chamber
315 (of the 322) seats in the Italian Senate
Turnout 90.6%
  Majority party Minority party Third party
  Benigno Zaccagnini.jpg Enrico Berlinguer.jpg Bettino Craxi-1.jpg
Leader Benigno Zaccagnini Enrico Berlinguer Bettino Craxi
Party Christian Democracy Communist Party Socialist Party
Leader since 1976
Leader's seat XII - Eastern Emilia XX - Latium III - Milan
Last election 263 & 135 seats, 38.7% 227 & 116 seats, 34.4% 57 & 29 seats
Seats won 262 (H)
138 (S)
201 (H)
109 (S)
62 (H)
32 (S)
Seat change Increase2 Decrease33 Increase8
Popular vote 14,046,290 11,139,231 3,630,052
Percentage 38.3% 30.4% 9.9%
Swing Decrease0.4% Decrease4.0% Increase0.3%

Italian Election 1979 Province.png

Legislative election results map. lightskyblue 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

Giulio Andreotti
Christian Democracy

New Prime Minister

Francesco Cossiga
Christian Democracy

General elections were held in Italy on June 3, 1979.[1] This election was called just a week before the European vote: the lack of matching between the two elections caused much controversy for wasting public money.

Terroristic attacks by the Red Brigades caused a result which was quite opposite than three years before: for the first time the Italian Communist Party lost a lot of votes, delaying that government change that was seeming imminent in 1976, and the Communist defeat gave a new strength to all the minor parties, a concentration of vote on the Christian Democracy seeming less urgent to stop the red progress. However, the catholic party remained stable, while neo-fascist Italian Social Movement was weakened by its spin-off National Democracy.

Electoral system[edit]

Regional pluralities in Senate

The pure party-list proportional representation had traditionally become the electoral system for the Chamber of Deputies. Italian provinces were united in 32 constituencies, each electing a group of candidates. At constituency level, seats were divided between open lists using the largest remainder method with Imperiali quota. Remaining votes and seats were transferred at national level, where they was divided using the Hare quota, and automatically distributed to best losers into the local lists.

For the Senate, 237 single-seat constituencies were established, even if the assembly had risen to 315 members. The candidates needed a landslide victory of two thirds of votes to be elected, a goal which could be reached only by the German minorities in South Tirol. All remained votes and seats were grouped in party lists and regional constituencies, where a D'Hondt method was used: inside the lists, candidates with the best percentages were elected.

Parties and leaders[edit]

Party Ideology Leader
Christian Democracy (DC) Christian democracy, Popularism Benigno Zaccagnini
Italian Communist Party (PCI) Communism, Eurocommunism Enrico Berlinguer
Italian Socialist Party (PSI) Democratic socialism, Social democracy Bettino Craxi
Italian Social Movement (MSI) Neo-Fascism, Italian nationalism Giorgio Almirante
Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI) Social democracy, Centrism Pietro Longo
Radical Party (PR) Radicalism, Anti-clericalism Marco Pannella
Italian Republican Party (PRI) Social liberalism, Centrism Giovanni Spadolini
Italian Liberal Party (PLI) Liberalism, Conservatism Valerio Zanone
Proletarian Unity Party (PdUP) Communism, Trotskyism Vittorio Foa


Even this eighth legislature of the Italian Republic was a period of great instability. After the election, the Christian-Democratic leadership instructed moderate Francesco Cossiga to form a centrist minority government with the PSDI and the PLI, which accepted an official engagement into the government for the first time since 1973; however, when in 1980 Benigno Zaccagnini was fired as Secretary of the DC and socialist leader Bettino Craxi offered his help, Cossiga suddenly resigned and formed a new centre-left government with the PSI and the PRI, underling that the catholic leaders had no more problems to choose their allies from anywhere. However, Cossiga later fell on a budget project, and a traditional centre-left government led by Arnaldo Forlani was formed. The great scandal of the masonic lodge P2 sank Forlani in 1981.

This deep political crisis marked the birth of a new political formula which ruled Italy during the 80's: the Pentapartito (Pentaparty, or five parties), which was no more than the fusion of the two main alliances that DC had used to rule Italy since 1947, the centrism and the centre-left. This formula became possible because Bettino Craxi's Italian Socialist Party and Valerio Zanone's Italian Liberal Party accepted to form their first republican government together, moderating their positions and passing the opposition that had always divided them. But the Pentaparty pact had another important condition: the DC accepted to recognize a pair role with the other four parties, alternating into the government leadership. The Secretary of the Italian Republican Party, Giovanni Spadolini, so became the first non-DC Prime Minister of Italy since 1945. However, his little party was unable to stop the quarrels between their great allies, and after a little crisis during summer 1982, Spadolini resigned in autumn of the same year. Former-PM Amintore Fanfani formed a new government without the offended republicans, but the PSI, which had good surveys, imposed the final crisis in 1983 and a new general election.

Chamber of Deputies[edit]

Composition of the Chamber of Deputies after the election.
Party Votes % Seats +/–
Christian Democracy 14,046,290 38.30 262 –1
Italian Communist Party 11,139,231 30.38 201 –26
Italian Socialist Party 3,596,802 9.81 62 +5
Italian Social Movement 1,930,639 5.26 30 –5
Italian Democratic Socialist Party 1,407,535 3.84 20 +5
Radical Party 1,264,870 3.45 18 +14
Italian Republican Party 1,110,209 3.03 16 +2
Italian Liberal Party 712,646 1.94 9 +4
Proletarian Unity Party 502,247 1.37 6
New United Left 294,462 0.80 0 New
National Democracy 229,205 0.63 0 New
South Tyrolean People's Party 204,899 0.56 4 +1
List for Trieste 65,505 0.18 1 New
Friuli Movement 35,254 0.10 0 New
Valdostan Union 33,250 0.09 1 +1
Others 98,264 0.30 0
Invalid/blank votes 1,571,610
Total 38,242,918 100 630 0
Registered voters/turnout 42,203,354 90.62
Source: Ministry of the Interior
Popular vote

Senate of the Republic[edit]

Composition of the Senate after the election.
Party Votes % Seats +/–
Christian Democracy 12,010,716 38.34 138 +3
Italian Communist Party 9,855,951 31.46 109 –7
Italian Socialist Party 3,252,410 10.38 32 +3
Italian Social Movement 1,780,950 5.68 13 –2
Italian Democratic Socialist Party 1,320,729 4.22 9 +3
Italian Republican Party 1,053,251 3.36 6
Italian Liberal Party 691,718 2.21 2
Radical Party 413,444 1.32 2 +2
Radical Party–New United Left 365,954 1.17 0 New
National Democracy 176,966 0.56 0 New
South Tyrolean People's Party 172,582 0.55 3 +1
List for Trieste 61,911 0.20 0 New
New United Left 44,094 0.14 0 New
Valdostan Union 37,082 0.12 1
Friuli Movement 31,490 0.10 0 New
Others 61,547 0.19 0
Invalid/blank votes 1,645,509
Total 32,976,304 100 315 0
Registered voters/turnout 36,362,037 90.69
Source: Ministry of the Interior


  1. ^ Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p. 1048. ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7

External links[edit]