Union of the Centre (2002)

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For the historical party with the same name, see Union of the Centre (1993).
Union of the Centre
Unione di Centro
Secretary Lorenzo Cesa
President Antonio De Poli
Founded 6 December 2002
Merger of Christian Democratic Centre
United Christian Democrats
European Democracy
Headquarters Via Due Macelli, 66
00187 Rome
Membership  (2016) 50,000[1]
Ideology Christian democracy
Social conservatism[2][3]
Political position Centre[4][5][6][7]
to Centre-right[8][9]
European affiliation European People's Party
International affiliation Centrist Democrat International
European Parliament group European People's Party
Chamber of Deputies
4 / 630
4 / 315
European Parliament
1 / 73

The Union of the Centre (Italian: Unione di Centro, UdC), whose complete name is Union of Christian and Centre Democrats (Unione dei Democratici Cristiani e di Centro, UDC),[10] is a Christian democratic[11][12] political party in Italy. Lorenzo Cesa is the party's current secretary, hence its leader. Pier Ferdinando Casini who, for years, was the most recognisable figure and de facto leader of the party, eventually distanced himself from it in 2016. The UdC is a member of the European People's Party and the Centrist Democrat International, of which Casini was president from 2004 to 2015.[13][14]

The party was formed as Union of Christian and Centre Democrats in December 2002 upon the merger of the Christian Democratic Centre (CCD), the United Christian Democrats (CDU) and European Democracy (DE). In 2008 the party was the driving force behind the Union of the Cente (UdC), an alliance comprising, among others, The Rose for Italy, the Populars for the Constituent Assembly of the Centre, the Liberal Clubs, the Party of Christian Democracy, the Christian Democratic Party, Veneto for the European People's Party, the Democratic Populars and the Autonomist Democrats. Since then, the party's official name was neglected in favour of the alliance's and, since most of the UdC member parties have joined the UDC too, the UDC and the UdC started to overlap almost completely to the point that they are now undistinguishable.

The UDC was part of the Pole/House of Freedoms from its establishment through 2008. Later it has been affiliated neither to the centre-right nor the centre-left at the national level. Despite this, the party takes part in several regional, provincial and municipal governments with Forza Italia, the largest force of the Italian centre-right (notably in Campania and Calabria), but recently formed alliances also with the centre-left Democratic Party in other regions (notably in Marche) and at the very local level. In the 2013 general election the UdC was part of With Monti for Italy, the coalition formed around Mario Monti's Civic Choice. More recently the party, which sits in the Renzi Cabinet, has sided with the Angelino Alfano's New Centre-Right within the so-called Popular Area. The UdC left the alliance, while suffering an internal split, in December 2016.


Foundation and early years[edit]

The party was founded on 6 December 2002 by the merger of three parties: the Christian Democratic Centre (CCD, led by Pier Ferdinando Casini from 1994 to 2001 and then by Marco Follini), the United Christian Democrats (CDU, a 1995 split of the Italian People's Party led by Rocco Buttiglione) and European Democracy (DE, launched by Sergio D'Antoni in 2000). At the 2001 Italian general election the three precursors of the UDC had scored 5.6% (sum of 3.2%, result of the CCD–CDU joint list, and 2.4%, result of DE). Follini and Buttiglione became respectively national secretary and president of the new party.

At the 2004 European Parliament election the UDC won 5.9% of the vote and five MEPs. The party's growth was reflected by Follini's entry in Berlusconi's second cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister with the goal of strengthening the government while diminishing the influence of Lega Nord.

At the 2005 regional elections the UDC and the House of Freedoms faced a severe defeat by winning only 2 regions out of 14. Follini asked Silvio Berlusconi to resign and form a new government. In the new executive Buttiglione became minister of Culture, while Follini step down from his previous post in order to concentrate on the party. On 15 October 2005 Follini suddenly resigned from his position as party secretary and was replaced on 27 October by Lorenzo Cesa, an ally of Casini.

The party took part to the 2006 general election with a new logo, characterised by the inclusion of the name of Casini, who also headed party electoral lists in most constituencies. Despite the defeat of the House of Freedoms, the UDC improved its electoral performance by gaining 6.8% of the vote.

From Berlusconi to the "centre"[edit]

In October 2006 Follini, a harsh critic of Berlusconi, finally left the party to form a new grouping, called Middle Italy, which was eventually merged into the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) upon its foundation in October 2007. This was the fourth split suffered by the UDC in two years after three much bigger scissions led respectively by Sergio D'Antoni, who joined Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy in 2004, Gianfranco Rotondi, who launched the Christian Democracy for the Autonomies in 2005, and Raffaele Lombardo, who formed the Sicilian-based Movement for Autonomy later on that year.

After the departure of Follini, however, Casini became highly critical of Berlusconi too and further distanced the UDC from him. A fifth major split happened at the end of January 2008 when Bruno Tabacci and Mario Baccini left the party because Casini seemed eager to re-join Berlusconi for the upcoming election, after that the Prodi II Cabinet had not passed through a vote of confidence. Shortly afterwards, when Casini refused to merge his party into Berlusconi's then-new political movement, The People of Freedom (PdL), the UDC was joined by The Rose for Italy of Tabacci, Baccini and Savino Pezzotta, as well as by two leading members of Forza Italia, Ferdinando Adornato and Angelo Sanza. On the other side, the UDC was left by those who wanted to continue the alliance with Berlusconi: Carlo Giovanardi and his faction (Liberal Populars) joined the PdL, citing that the 72% of UDC voters wanted the party to do so.[15] They were soon followed by many others.

Union of the Centre[edit]

On 28 February 2008 the UDC announced that it would contest the 2008 general election under the banner of the Union of the Centre (UdC), in alliance with The Rose for Italy and other smaller groups,[16][17] notably including the Populars around Ciriaco De Mita, former leader of Christian Democracy (DC) and later member of the PD.[18] Despite having lost many votes to the PdL, the UDC was able to woo some new voters from the centre-left and gained 5.6% of the vote, 36 deputies (all UDC members but four) and three senators. Soon after the election, Mario Baccini, one of the leaders of The Rose, surprisingly left the UdC in order to join the PdL.[19]

After the election, Casini relaunched his plan for a new "centrist" party, as an alternative to both the PdL and the PD. This is what he called the "party of the nation", open to "centrists", "Christian democrats", "liberals" and "reformers", even though he presented it as a party based on Christian values, as opposed both to the PD and the PdL, which, despite being a centre-right party, also included social-liberal factions.[20][21][22] Casini long criticised the PdL for not being "Catholic" enough, particularly criticizing Silvio Berlusconi, who once spoke of "anarchy of values" in describing the catch-all nature of the PdL,[23] and Gianfranco Fini, who was known for his social-liberal stance on stem-cell research, abortion and right-to-die issues,[24] and explicitly wooed the "Christian democrats of the PD" to join him.[25]

In the 2009 European Parliament election the UdC won 6.5% of the vote and five of its candidates were elected to the European Parliament, including De Mita and Magdi Allam. In the 2010 regional elections the UdC chose to form alliances both with the centre-right and the centre-left (or stood alone) in different regions, depending on local conditions,[26] losing ground everywhere but in those southern regions where it was in alliance with the centre-right.

Back to government[edit]

In December 2010 the UdC was a founding member of the New Pole for Italy (NPI), along with Future and Freedom (FLI) and the Alliance for Italy.[27][28] The three parties, which were supporters of Mario Monti's technocratic government in 2011–2013, later parted ways.

The UdC contested the 2013 general election as part of the With Monti for Italy coalition, alongside FLI and Monti's Civic Choice. The election was a huge defeat for the UdC party, which obtained a mere 1.8% of the vote, eight deputies and two senators. After the election, the party joined the Letta Cabinet with Gianpiero D'Alia as minister of Public Administration (2013–2014) and the Renzi Cabinet with Gianluca Galletti as minister of the Environment (since February 2014).

In February 2014,during the party's fourth congress, Cesa was narrowly re-elected secretary over D'Alia, who was then elected president.[29]

The UdC ran in the 2014 European Parliament election on a joint list with the New Centre-Right (NCD), a Christian-democratic outfit emerged from a split from the PdL in its final days. The list obtained 4.4% of the vote and three MEPs, two for the NCD and one for the UdC.

In December 2014 the alliance with the NCD was strengthened with the formation of the Popular Area (AP) joint parliamentary groups.

Road to party's re-foundation[edit]

In 2016 Casini did not renew his membership to the party, which was thus deprived of its most recognisable leader. Additionally, while still being part of the government and AP, the UdC chose not to support the "yes" in the 2016 constitutional referendum and to distance from the NCD, rejecting any notion of a joint party.[1][30][31] In the run-up of the referendum the party was also abandoned by president D'Alia.[32][33] After the referendum, which saw a huge defeat of the "no" side, the UdC left AP altogether, but, other than Casini and D'Alia, the party lost another deputy and, more important, minister Galletti.[34][35][36] Antonio De Poli replaced D'Alia as president.[37][38]

In February 2017 the UdC was joined by three senators, two defectors from the Liberal Popular Alliance and one from the NCD.[39][40] The new course of the party was marked also by the return of Marco Follini,[41] the former secretary who had defected from the party and been a founding member of the PD.


Although it is the most vocal supporter of social conservatism in Italy (opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia are some of its main concerns) and can be easily connected with the Christian right, the UdC is usually identified with the political centre in Italy, thanks to its roots in the Christian Democracy (DC).

However The Economist once described it as a right-wing, sometimes reactionary party, which "stretches a long way from the centre". Moreover, it wrote that many UDC members are "diehard corporatists who [...] get most of their votes from the south, where many households depend either on welfare or on public-sector employment".[42] Indeed, the party is stronger in the South and especially in Sicily, where public-sector employment is widely spread.

The UDC was an independent-minded and often reluctant member of the House of Freedoms coalition from 2002 to 2008. The party's leading figure, Pier Ferdinando Casini, was critical of Silvio Berlusconi's leadership over the Italian centre-right and presented himself as a moderate alternative to populism, which, in his view, denoted the alliance between The People of Freedom (PdL) and Lega Nord. UDC's main goal, similarly to that of the Democratic Movement in France, has been to form governments beyond the left-right divide (e.g: Monti Cabinet and Letta Cabinet) and, possibly, reassembling the remnants of the old DC and control Italian politics from the centre. In this respect, Casini and his followers have long tried to form the nucleus of a third force in Italian politics (e.g.: New Pole for Italy, With Monti for Italy, Popular Area).

This "centrist option" has not succeeded yet: the UdC has remained a much lighter force compared to Berlusconi's parties (Forza Italia, the PdL and finally the new Forza Italia), which have drawn most former DC voters, and Italians like confrontational politics based on alternative coalitions and many would support a two-party system, in place of the typically Italian fragmented political spectrum.[43] Finally, several political scientists think that the return of DC is all but likely as the "political unity of Catholics" (the core idea on which DC was based) is not repeatable and it would be anti-historical to try uniting all strains of political Catholicism in a single party.

Moreover, although UdC members are keen on presenting themselves as moderates, their solid social conservatism has harmed their prospects, while FI/PdL/FI has been popular also among secularised middle-class voters. Knowing that, Casini tried to open his party, through the UdC, also to non Christian-democratic "centrists", "liberals" and "reformers", while wooing former DC members affiliated with other parties, especially the PdL and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).[20] After Casini's exit from the party in 2016, the UdC is likely to return to its traditional Christian-democratic roots, as declared by Cesa in a speech to the party's national council.[44]

On specific issues, it is relevant to state that the UdC is one of the main supporters of nuclear energy in the Italian political arena.[45]


At the 2007 national congress there were basically four factions within the party.

The three main schisms suffered by the party between 2004 and 2006, Middle Italy (IdM), Movement for Autonomy (MpA) and Christian Democracy for the Autonomies (DCA), were led by the most vocal supporters of each of the last three factions mentioned above, respectively Marco Follini, Raffaele Lombardo and Gianfranco Rotondi. By 2010 virtually all Giovanardiani and Cuffariani had left the party through the Liberal Populars and the PID.

Popular support[edit]

The UDC has been historically stronger in the South than in any other part of the country.

At the 2008 general election the party won 9.4% in Sicily, 8.2% in Calabria and 7.9% in Apulia, while only 3.8% in Liguria, 4.3% in Lombardy and 5.2% in Piedmont. In the North the party was better placed in the North-East: 5.6% in Veneto and 6.0% in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

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

Since 2004 (European) the results refer to the UDC. The 2006 (Sicilian regional) refers to the combined result of the UDC (13.0) and of L'Aquilone–Lista del Presidente (5.7%), the personal list of UDC regional leader Salvatore Cuffaro. The elected members of this list were all UDC members.

2004 European 2005 regional 2006 general 2008 general 2009 European 2010 regional 2013 general
Piedmont 5.0 4.6 6.2 5.2 6.1 3.9 1.2
Lombardy 3.6 3.8 5.9 4.3 5.0 3.8 1.1
Veneto 5.0 6.4 7.8 5.6 6.4 4.9 1.7
Emilia-Romagna 2.8 3.9 5.8 4.3 4.7 3.8 1.1
Tuscany 3.3 3.7 5.9 4.2 4.6 4.8 1.1
Lazio 7.1 7.8 6.9 4.8 5.5 6.1 1.5
Campania 7.0 6.7 6.8 6.5 8.7 9.4 3.6
Apulia 8.1 7.8 7.8 7.9 9.1 6.5 2.0
Calabria 9.6 10.4 7.7 8.2 9.3 9.4 4.1
Sicily 14.0 18.7 (2006) 10.0 9.4 11.9 12.5 (2008) 2.8
ITALY 5.9 - 6.8 5.6 6.5 - 1.8

Electoral results[edit]

Italian Parliament[edit]

Chamber of Deputies
Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
2006 2,580,190 (#4) 6.8
39 / 630
Pier Ferdinando Casini
2008 2,050,309 (#4) 5.6
36 / 630
Decrease 3 Pier Ferdinando Casini
2013 608,199 (#9) 1.8
8 / 630
Decrease 28 Pier Ferdinando Casini
Senate of the Republic
Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
2006 2,309,442 (#6) 6.8
21 / 315
Pier Ferdinando Casini
2008 1,898,842 (#4) 5.7
3 / 315
Decrease 18 Pier Ferdinando Casini
2013 with Monti for Italy
2 / 315
Decrease 1 Pier Ferdinando Casini

European Parliament[edit]

Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
2004 1,914,726 (#5) 5.9
5 / 72
Pier Ferdinando Casini
2009 1,995,021 (#5) 6.5
5 / 72
Pier Ferdinando Casini
2014 1,202,350 (#5) 4.4
1 / 73
Lorenzo Cesa

Regional Councils[edit]

Region Latest election # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
Abruzzo 2014 40,219 (#4) 5.9
1 / 31
Aosta Valley 2013 1,572 (#8) 2.2
0 / 35
Apulia 2015[a] 99,021 (#8) 6.2
3 / 51
Basilicata 2013 9,002 (#10) 3.8
1 / 21
Calabria 2014 21,020 (#12) 2.7
0 / 30
Campania 2015 53,628 2.3
2 / 51
Emilia-Romagna 2014[b] 31,635 (#7) 2.6
0 / 50
Friuli-Venezia Giulia 2013 14,758 (#8) 3.7
1 / 49
Lazio 2013 124,244 (#5) 4.4
2 / 50
Liguria 2015[b] 9,269 (#9) 1.7
1 / 31
Lombardy 2013 85,721 (#9) 1.6
0 / 80
Marche 2015[c] 18,109 (#9) 3.4
1 / 31
Molise 2013 10,514 (#7) 6.3
1 / 21
Piedmont 2014[b] 49,059 (#7) 2.5
0 / 50
Sardinia 2014 51,923 (#3) 7.6
4 / 60
Sicily 2012 207,827 (#4) 10.8
11 / 90
Tuscany 2015[b] 15,808 (#8) 1.2
0 / 41
Umbria 2015[b] 9,285 (#9) 2.6
0 / 20
Veneto 2015[b] 37.937 (#11) 2.0
1 / 51
  1. ^ Joint list with Reality Italy and Democratic Centre.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Joint list with New Centre-Right (Popular Area).
  3. ^ Joint list with Solidary Democracy and Democratic Centre.




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