Italy Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as ITA, Italy is considered a democracy and a rule of law. There is a strong protection of human rights in the country’s legislation and the media has an independent position and can operate freely.

All citizens have the right to vote in parliamentary elections, which are usually carried out under free and fair forms. The Italians can, without hindrance, form, participate in and organize meetings in one of the country’s many political parties or in the rich social life. The law guarantees groups that speak some minority language representation in parliament if they receive at least 20 percent of the votes in their constituencies, while the proportion of MPs of the same gender may exceed 60 percent. Nevertheless, there was a shortage of women in parliament after the 2018 elections: about 35 percent of parliamentarians were women. Even in political life in general, women play an even more obscure role than men, and issues relating to women’s rights and status tend to fall further down the agenda. The same applies to subjects related to the country’s minorities.

The right-wing populist government, which ruled the country from spring 2018 to September 2019, pursued a tough immigration policy that led observers to warn of the risk of undermining civil rights. The government – under the leadership of Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, party leader of the right-wing extremist Lega – set out to deny relief organizations’ vessels with distressed migrants access to the country’s ports (see Current Policy). Michele Bachelet, head of the UN Commission on Human Rights, strongly criticized the rejection of the rescue vessels, saying it had “serious consequences for those most vulnerable.”

A new immigration and security law from 2018 also made it easier to expel migrants and to restrict the right to a residence permit. More recently, racial violence in society and threats to Roma minorities have also become more common. In the fall of 2019, a new government took office in the country (see Current policy).

Corruption is a significant societal problem and there are still links between the mafia and government employees as well as politicians and businessmen. Parliament passed a new law in 2017 that would make anti-corruption more effective. Italy has long been among the countries in the EU that receive the lowest rating in Transparency International’s annual index of corruption in the countries of the world. In 2018, Italy ranked 53 out of 180 countries (see here).

Freedom of expression and media

Italy’s Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Defamation is prohibited and can result in a three-year prison sentence. The legislation has been criticized for restricting freedom of expression, something that the European Court of Justice also concluded in a 2013 ruling, according to the Foreign Ministry’s country report on human rights.

It is also classified as a crime to blaspheme, which can lead to fines.
The media can generally work without formal obstacles. However, journalists who report corruption and other crime happen to be subject to harassment and death threats. Political influence and the strong concentration of ownership in the media world are other problems that contribute to Italy’s often being lower than other Western European countries in Reporters Without Borders’ annual survey of press freedom in the countries of the world. However, the country has improved its ranking since 2016 (see the Press Freedom Organization Reporters Without Borders list here). At the same time, threats and harassment by journalists are said to have increased in recent years, according to press freedom organizations, not least from supporters of the Five Star Movement. Some journalists have also needed 24/7 police surveillance because of threats from the mafia or various political extremist groups.

There is legislation that gives citizens access to public documents. But the UN Human Rights Committee (which oversees the United Nations Civic and Civil Rights Convention) has recommended that the country ensure greater compliance with the law.

There are no restrictions on freedom of expression on the internet and no censorship exists.

Judicial system and legal security

The judiciary has an independent position, but it is characterized by some problems. Not least, trials can go out in time and sometimes last for several years. The European Court of Justice has on several occasions convicted Italy for failing to conclude trials within a reasonable time, which means that the plaintiff is then entitled to damages in accordance with Italian law.

Italy has also been criticized by human rights organizations for the conditions in prisons, which are often overcrowded.

Italy Crime Rate & Statistics



Monti forms a new alliance

December 28

Monti a new alliance of middle parties that will go to elections on joint lists. Monti claims to be willing to lead a possible center government.

The government is leaving

December 21

Prime Minister Mario Monti resigns after Parliament adopts the 2013 budget. At the same time, Berlusconi announces plans to post in the upcoming new elections in February, a message that creates political and financial concerns in Italy.

The government loses support

December 7

The people of freedom announce that the party intends to withdraw its support for the government as soon as the budget is adopted later in December.


Tax evasion brings prison

October 26th

Former Prime Minister Berlusconi is sentenced to prison for tax evasion for the sale of film rights in his television company Mediaset. The sentence of four years in prison is shortened to one year according to an amnesty law. Berlusconi is prohibited from holding public office for five years and running the company for three years, and he and the co-accused have to replace the tax authority with ten million euros. Berlusconi refuses to be involved in tax fraud, and he describes the sentence in the six-year-old case as political. He threatens to overthrow the Monti government but does not support it in his party. Berlusconi appeals later and the term of imprisonment is short, which reduces the likelihood of him serving the prison sentence.

Valallians on the left

The Democratic Party forms a valiant alliance with, among others, the environmental party Left Ecology Freedom and the Italian Socialist Party.

Battle of the Mafia

The government sets aside the entire city council in the province of Calabria’s capital, Reggio Calabria. The reason is said to be that the southern Italian mafia organization Ndranghetan had too much influence over the members.


New savings package

Parliament votes on austerity measures for € 26 billion over three years in health care, public administration and more. One tenth of the public employees must be laid off.


EU assistance

Prime Minister Monti is successful at the EU summit in Brussels, which decides that euro area countries can receive rapid support from the EU crisis fund without negotiating harsh conditions. The EU is also taking steps towards a banking union, which could lead to future euro bonds with the same interest rate for crisis countries as Italy and strong economies like Germany’s.


Protest Party wins elections

Left and protest parties are having success in local elections, which is seen as an expression of dissatisfaction with the government’s economic tightening but also with corruption scandals. Former Prime Minister Berlusconi’s Party of the People of Liberty and the scandal-ridden Federation North (see April 2012) are doing very poorly in the elections, while comedian and blogger Beppe Grillo is making strong progress with his protest group Five Star Movement.


Bossi is forced to resign

May 5th

Former Prime Minister Berlusconi’s ally Umberto Bossi is forced to step down as party leader of the Northern Italian populist party Federation Nord, since party money is suspected to have gone to Bossi’s family. The scandal means that leading politicians are excluded from the party. Prosecutors are also investigating suspicions of links to organized crime.


Police strike Naples mafia

The police carry out a large anti-mafia operation in Naples. Assets worth more than $ 1.3 billion are seized and 16 judges arrested are accused of receiving bribery of the mafia.

Union criticism

The union is leading protests against the government’s proposal for labor market reform, which among other things will make it easier for companies to dismiss workers. According to the government, more flexible rules should promote growth and productivity, and make it easier for young people and women to enter the labor market.


Berlusconi friad

After five years of legal proceedings, a court dismisses a lawsuit against Prime Minister Berlusconi where he is accused of bribing his tax lawyer for falsely testifying in two trials. Any crime is considered prescriptive.


Positive sign

Interest rates on Italian bond loans are falling significantly, a positive sign in the government’s fight against the economic crisis.

Increased fuel tax riots

From Sicily, a protest spread across Italy against the government’s tightening and raising taxes on petrol and diesel. Truck drivers block roads and taxi drivers strike. The criticism is harsh against the government’s proposal to deregulate taxi companies, pharmacies and banks in an attempt to create more jobs through increased competition.