In 2013, the Five Star Movement (M5S) won representation for the first time in the Italian parliament, the heart of the institutions they criticised and aimed to reform. With parliamentary ranks filled mostly with inexperienced politicians and a strong identification with the role of outsiders challenging the mainstream political consensus, the expectation is that their opposition style should differ substantially from that of other parties. This article explores this question by comparing the policy content of oral parliamentary questions submitted by the M5S with that of other Italian opposition parties during the 17th legislature (2013-2018). It analyses to what extent the M5S’s issue profile 1) overlaps more with parties of either the left or the right side of the political spectrum, 2) is more likely to deal with matters emphasised in its electoral platform, and 3) is more likely to address issues not attended to by other parties. The results provide new insights into the behaviour of new challenger parties in parliament.
In Italian Political Science, 13(3): 19-32,2018
Populist parties have been gaining ground in European political systems. Against this backcloth, Portugal stands out as the only Southern European country in which traditional mainstream parties have not faced a sharp rise in populist challengers. This article relies on content analysis of election manifestos to examine the use of populist claims by the main Portuguese parties before and after the crisis (1995–2015). Our findings reveal that populist rhetoric has been used mainly by left-wing radical parties as a wedge to disrupt a decade-old status quo. Moreover, we did not find a significant increase in the frequency of populist rhetorical elements after the crisis, either in mainstream or challenger parties. Overall, in the Portuguese case, ideology is the most important factor that explains the adoption of a populist discourse.
In South European Society and Politics, 23(4): 405-427,2018
Portugal is a crucial case when studying candidate re-selection in a party-dominated setting. While we expect MPs’ productivity to be strongly associated with re-selection, it should not affect the position of reselected representatives on the party list. These expectations are tested using data on MPs’ parliamentary activities across 8 years (from 2007 to 2015), while controlling for alternative hypotheses. Although the two main hypotheses are confirmed, we found that both electoral vulnerability and district magnitude condition the effect of MPs’ productivity on re-selection. Overall, the results are in line with the literature on re-selection and suggest that other factors, such as party loyalty, may be germane to the understanding of the re-selection process in Portugal.
In Parliamentary affairs, 71(4):868-887,2018
This article analyses the transmission of policy priorities from electoral campaigns to legislative outputs under different institutional configurations. Taking an agenda-setting approach, the article tests whether a mandate effect exists, if incumbents also uptake the priorities of their competitors, and whether and how the introduction of alternation in government impacts on these dynamics. The analysis relies on data sets of the Italian Agendas Project recording the issue content of party manifestos and laws and covering the period 1983–2012. The results of time series cross-sectional models lend support to the presence of a mandate effect in Italy, a mechanism which was strengthened after the introduction of alternation in government. Opposition priorities may have an impact on the legislative agenda, but mostly when considering the legislation initiated in Parliament. Our findings have important implications for the understanding of the impact of government alternation, an institutional feature underlying – with varying intensity – most democracies, on the functioning of democratic representation.
In Italian Political Science Review / Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, 48(3):275-288,2018
The substantial increase in the delegation of legislative powers from the parliament to the executive has been singled out as one of the most prominent changes in the Italian political system of the last three decades. It has given traditionally weak executives the opportunity to adopt significant reforms while bypassing the notorious fetters of the ordinary legislative process. While the literature has to date focused on the motivations to delegate, there is still a research gap on what the executive does with the delegated authority. Based on a newly collected data-set covering all delegation provisions adopted from 1987 to 2013, this article analyses why, in a remarkable number of cases, the cabinet did not use the delegations. Results show that the existence of an agreement on the policy in question (as captured by the precision of delegating criteria), as well as the complexity and timing of the delegation have a significant impact on the likelihood a delegation is used.
In Journal of legislative studies, 24(2):179-196,2018
Question time represents one of the most relevant institutional arenas where parties compete to get their favourite issues on the parliamentary agenda. Parties select which issue to address by weighing up two commitments simultaneously: fulfilling the party mandate received by their voters at election time; responding to the current priorities of voters. This article assesses the extent to which the recent sovereign debt crisis impacted the way parties balance these two imperatives of democratic representation. Through the issue coding of around 10,000 parliamentary oral questions tabled in Italy, Portugal and Spain between 2003 and 2014, the analysis shows that the worsening of economic conditions intensified the impact of citizens’ priorities. However, there is no clear evidence of a decline in the importance of the party mandate for either the majority or opposition parties. These findings offer insights on the topic of party political representation in Southern Europe and whether it was affected by the Eurozone crisis.
In Party Politics, 24:1, p.65–77,2018
Policy agendas studies analyse the dynamics of attention to policy issues over time and across actors and institutions to obtain insights into the functioning of political systems. The articles in this special issue draw on this approach to investigate key aspects of the Italian political system, with a special emphasis on the period spanning from the political crisis of the early 1990s to the watershed elections of 2013. They analyse a broad range of institutional and policy venues, including public opinion, political parties, the executive, the Parliament, and the Constitutional Court. While single articles address different research questions and focus on different institutions, they all share a focus on the dynamics of issue attention over time. This introduction provides a summary overview of the theoretical and methodological tools employed in the volume, highlighting how the study of policy agendas can contribute to the understanding of political systems and their change over time. It then summarises the main findings of single articles which, taken together, shed new light on several classic questions that have been widely debated in the literature on the evolution of the Italian political system.
In Italian Political Science Review / Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, 48(3):265-274,0001