The waning of the two giants: the electoral decline of the Italian Christian Democratic Party and the Italian Communist Party
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Italy is currently experiencing profound political change. One aspect of this change involves the decline in electoral support for the Italian Christian Democratic Party (DC) and the Italian Communist Party (PCI), now the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS). Signs of the electoral decline of both parties began to appear in the late 1970s and early 1980s and accelerated in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The pr imar y purpos e of th is thes is is to expla i n the electoral decline of the DC and PCI/PDS in the last decade. The central question being addressed in this thesis is the following: What factors contributed to the decline in electoral support for the DC and PCI? In addition, the thesis attempts to better comprehend the change in magni tude and direction of the Italian party system. The thesis examines the central question within an analytical framework that consists of models explaining electoral change in advanced industrial democracies and in Italy. A review of the literature on electoral change in Italy reveals three basic models: structural (socioeconomic and demographic factors), subcultural (the decline of the Catholic and Communist subcultures), and pol i tical (factors such as party strategy, and the crisis and collapse of communism in iv Eastern Europe and the former soviet Union and the end to the Cold War). Significant structural changes have occurred in Italy, but they do not invariably hurt or benefit either party. The Catholic and Communist subcultures have declined in size and strength, but only gradually. More importantly, the study discovers that the decline of communism and party strategy adversely affected the electoral performances of the DC and PC!. The basic conclusion is that political factors primarily and directly contributed to the decline in electoral support for both parties, while societal factors (structural and subcultural changes) played a secondary and indirect role. While societal factors do not contribute directly to the decline in electoral support for both parties, they do provide the context within which both parties operated. In addition, the Italian party system is becoming more fragmented and traditional political parties are losing electoral support to new political movements, such as the Lega Nord (LN-Northern League) and the Rete (Network). The growing importance of the North-South and centre-periphery cleavages suggests that the Italian party system, which is traditionally based on religious and ideological cleavages, may be changing.