Italian Liberal Party (historical)

Italian Liberal Party (historical)

name_english = Italian Liberal Party

foundation = 1861
dissolution = 6 February 1994
leaders = Benedetto Croce, Bruno Villabruna, Gaetano Martino, Giovanni Malagodi, Valerio Zanone, Alfredo Biondi, Renato Altissimo, Raffaele Costa
newspaper = L'Opinione
membership_year= 1958
membership = 173,722 (max) []
ideology = Liberalism, Conservatism, Conservative liberalism
international = Liberal International
european = European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
europarl = European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
colorcode = yellow

The Italian Liberal Party ("Partito Liberale Italiano", PLI) was a liberal Italian political party.



The original Italian Liberal Party was formed as a parliamentary group by Cammillo Benso di Cavour following the Revolutions of 1848 in the Italian states. The party was moderately conservative and supported centralized government, restricted suffrage, regressive taxation, and free trade. The party dominated Italian politics following Italian unification in 1861 but faded after World War I. [ [ Italian Liberal Party] , Britannica Concise] In the 1870s it split into two factions, the Liberal Conservatives ("Liberal-Conservatori") led by Antonio di Rudinì and then Sidney Sonnino, and the Liberal Left ("Sinistra Liberale") of Giuseppe Zanardelli and Giovanni Giolitti. The second group was by far the largest of the two and dominated Italian politics in the 1900s and 1910s. The Italian Liberal Party was re-united and organized in 1922, under the leadership of Giolitti, but was banned under Benito Mussolini in 1926.

Post World War II

The party was re-founded in 1943 by Benedetto Croce, a prominent intellectual and MP whose international recognition allowed him to remain a free man during Fascism, despite being an anti-fascist himself. Various groups had claimed the label "Liberal" before, but had never organized themselves as a party. After the end of World War II, the Liberal Enrico De Nicola became "temporary chief of state" (not President of the Republic, as the general elections had not yet been held) and another one, Luigi Einaudi (who, as Minister of Economy and Governor of the Bank of Italy between 1945 and 1948, had reshaped Italian economy), first President of Italy.

The first electoral result of the PLI (as National Democratic Union), was 6.8% in the 1946 election for the Constituent Assembly, which was somewhat below expectations. Indeed PLI was supported by all the survivors of the Italian political class before the rise of Fascism, from Vittorio Emanuele Orlando to Francesco Saverio Nitti. In the first years, the party was led by Leone Cattani, member of the internal left, and then by Roberto Lucifero, a monarchist-conservative. This fact caused the exit of the group of Cattani, so that Bruno Villabruna, a moderate, was elected secretary in 1948 in order to re-unite all Liberals under a single banner.

Giovanni Malagodi

Under Giovanni Malagodi, the party moved further to the right on economic issues. In particular the party opposed the new Centre-Left Coalition and presented itself as the main conservative party in Italy. This caused in 1956 the exit of left-wing liberals (among whom Eugenio Scalfari and Marco Pannella) who founded the Radical Party of Liberals and Democrats, later shortened in Radical Party.

Malagodi managed initially to draw some votes from the Italian Social Movement, attracting their hostility, and managing to substantially increase the party's support to a historical record of 7.0% in the 1963 election. After his resignation from party leadership in 1972, the Liberals were defeated with a humiliating 1.3% in the 1976.

The years of "Pentapartito"

After Valerio Zanone took over in 1976, the party moved to the centre. The new secretary opened to the Socialists, hoping to put in action a sort of Lib-Lab cooperation, similar to that experimented in the United Kingdom from 1977 to 1979 between Labour and Liberals.

In 1983 the PLI finally entered in the government coalition with the Christian Democracy (DC), the Socialist Party (PSI), and the smaller Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI) and Italian Republican Party (PRI); the coalition was dubbed for a long time "pentapartito", or "five-parties". In the 1980s, the party was also led by Renato Altissimo and Alfredo Biondi, then Minister of Justice in the first Berlusconi Government and president of Forza Italia's National Council.

Decline, disbandament and diaspora

With the uncovering of the corruption system nicknamed Tangentopoli by the Mani Pulite investigation, many government parties experienced a rapid loss of their support. In the first months, the Liberal Party seemed immune to investigation. However, as the investigations further unraveled, PLI turned out to be part of the corruption scheme. A Liberal, Minister of Health Francesco De Lorenzo, was one of the most loathed politicians in Italy for his corruption, that involved stealing funds from the sick, and allowing commercialisation of medicines based on bribes. De Lorenzo later pretended to have a nervous breakdown to be released from jail, appearing in court dirty and unshaved; a short time after he was granted parole on medical grounds, he was photographed shaved, clean and smiling at a restaurant (ironically named "The Two Thieves"). It was later found he had used his brief time out of jail to burn a large quantity of documents that could have been used as evidence against him in court.

The party was disbanded in February 1994 and there were at least successor parties:
*the Union of Centre ("Unione di Centro", UdC), led by Alfredo Biondi, Raffaele Costa and Enrico Nan, which was a close ally of Forza Italia and joined it in 1998;
*the Liberal Party ("Partito Liberale", PL), led by Stefano De Luca, Ernesto Caccavale and Luigi Calligaris, which was too a close ally of Forza Italia, but, differently from the Union of Centre, its members joined also Forza Italia itself (anyway, when in 1998 UdC members joined Forza Italia, PL members started to distance themselves from it, as it was perceived as too much christian-democratic);
*a group led by Antonio Martino, Giancarlo Galan and Paolo Romani joined suddenly to Forza Italia, perceived as a liberal mass party;
*the Italian Liberal Right ("Destra Liberale Italiana", DLI), led by Gabriele Pagliuzzi and Giuseppe Basini, joined National Alliance;
*the Federation of Italian Liberals ("Federazione dei Liberali Italiani", FdL), led by Raffaello Morelli and Valerio Zanone, first joined the Patto Segni, then joined the centre-left as part of Democratic Union);
*the Liberal Left ("Sinistra Liberale", SL) of Gianfranco Passalacqua, which represented the left-wingers of the party and finally merged in the Democrats of the Left in 2006.

After some years from the party disbanding, most members migrated to Forza Italia or other parties in the centre-right (e.g., Alfredo Biondi, Raffaele Costa, Antonio Martino and Giancarlo Galan, members of FI, Enzo Savarese, member of National Alliance, and Manuela Dal Lago, member of Northern League), while some other joined the centre-left (e.g., Valerio Zanone, Federico Orlando, Beatrice Rangoni Machivelli and Cinzia Dato, members of Democracy is Freedom - Daisy, Gianfranco Passalacqua, Paolo Colla, Raffaello Morelli and Enzo Marzo, members of Federation of Italian Liberals and of Democrats of the Left).

Re-foundation of the party

In 2004 the party was re-founded by Stefano De Luca (the new national secretary, who was MEP for Forza Italia from 1994 to 1999 and leader of the Liberal Party from 2001 to 2004), Renato Altissimo, Carla Martino (sister of Antonio, minister of Defence, and new president of the party), Giuseppe Basini, Attilio Bastianini, Savino Melillo, Salvatore Grillo, Arturo Diaconale, Gian Nicola Amoretti. This new party gathers some of the Italian right-wing liberals. See Italian Liberal Party.



*Giovanni Cassandro (1944)
*Manlio Brosio (1944–1945)
*Leone Cattani (1945–1946)
*Giovanni Cassandro (1946–1947)
*Roberto Lucifero (1947–1948)
*Bruno Villabruna (1948–1954)
*Alessandro Leone di Tavagnasco (1954)
*Giovanni Malagodi (1954–1972)
*Agostino Bignardi (1972–1976)
*Valerio Zanone (1976–1985)
*Alfredo Biondi (1985–1986)
*Renato Altissimo (1986–1993)
*Raffaele Costa (1993–1994)


*Benedetto Croce (1944–1954)
*Raffaele De Caro (1954–1962)
*Gaetano Martino (1962–1972)
*Giovanni Malagodi (1972–1985)
*Valerio Zanone (1985–1986)
*Alfredo Biondi (1986–1994)


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