Policy Briefs

C. Bastasin: Why a pro-European President of the Italian Republic is vital for the country’s economy

The role of Italy’s President, differently from the premiership, does not wield executive powers. Nevertheless, its function of stability has become progressively more important in the last 20 years. In a political system uniquely characterized by its instability, the President’s seven-year mandate has always provided a long-term institutional anchor to the country. Furthermore, as will be highlighted in this short brief, in the last 20 years the President’s anchoring function has become even more critical because of a new feature in Italy’s institutional dynamics, which leads governments to sway from a path of fiscal stability the more durable they are.

To justify this view, it is necessary to question one of the few certainties that political-economy scholars hold to be solid and that characterizes the Italian case in a unique (or anticipatory) way, unlike other political systems in advanced economies. The conviction is that the financial instability of a country is linked to political instability in a sort of vicious circle. In other words, it has always been taken for granted that the very short duration of Italian governments made them irresponsible with respect to the consequences of their own fiscal indiscipline: the shorter the government, the greater the deficit that the government presented to Parliament for approval, leaving the consequences of a higher-than-expected debt to subsequent administrations. But while this was true until the 1990s, perhaps it has not been the case in the last two decades.

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