Forza Italia (2013)
|Political Counselor||Giovanni Toti|
|Chief of Staff||Mariarosaria Rossi|
18 September 2013|
16 November 2013
|Preceded by||The People of Freedom|
|Headquarters||Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina 4, Rome|
|Youth wing||Forza Italia Giovani|
|Women's wing||Donne Azzurre|
|European affiliation||European People's Party|
|European Parliament group||European People's Party|
|Chamber of Deputies||
50 / 630
42 / 315
12 / 73
1 / 20
The party, formed out of the former People of Freedom (PdL) party, is a revival of the defunct Forza Italia (FI), active from 1994 to 2009, when it was merged with National Alliance (AN) and several minor parties to form the PdL. Forza Italia's leading members include Giovanni Toti, Mariarosaria Rossi, Antonio Tajani, Renato Brunetta, Paolo Romani, Elisabetta Gardini, Maurizio Gasparri, Mariastella Gelmini, Antonio Martino, Daniela Santanchè and Stefano Caldoro.
On 11 September 2014 FI was admitted into the European People's Party (EPP), inheriting the PdL's membership.
FI is a much smaller party than the original FI and the early PdL, due to the successive splits of Future and Freedom (2010), the Brothers of Italy (2012), the New Centre-Right (2013), the Conservative and Reformists (2015) and the Liberal Popular Alliance (2015), and decreasing opinion poll numbers, which are putting the party steadily in fourth place, after the Democratic Party, the Five Star Movement and FI's long-time coalition partner Lega Nord.
Background and foundation
The new FI, announced in June 2013, was launched on 18 September and the PdL was formally dissolved into the party on 16 November. The day before a group of dissidents (mainly Christian democrats), led by Berlusconi's former protégé Angelino Alfano, had broken away by announcing the foundation of the alternative New Centre-Right (NCD) party. Another group of PdL members, led by former mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno, had left the party earlier in order to form Italy First (they would later join the Brothers of Italy, FdI). According to Berlusconi, the PdL would become a coalition of centre-right parties, including the new FI, Lega Nord (LN), NCD, a new conservative outfit to be formed around FdI, etc.
Among the strongest supporters of the return to FI, the so-called "hawks" and self-proclaimed "loyalists", a leading role was played by Raffaele Fitto, who, despite the common Christian-democratic background, was a long-time rival of Alfano. Other supporters included Antonio Martino, Renato Brunetta, Denis Verdini, Mariastella Gelmini, Mara Carfagna, Giancarlo Galan, Sandro Bondi, Daniela Santanchè, Niccolò Ghedini and Daniele Capezzone, while Maurizio Gasparri, Altero Matteoli and Paolo Romani, tried to mediate between Alfano and Fitto, but finally chose to join the new FI.
The symbol of FI made its return in the 2013 provincial elections in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, although in a regional fashion: "Forza Trentino" and "Forza Alto Adige" (in list with Lega Nord Alto Adige/Südtirol).
On 27 November the Senate approved Berlusconi's expulsion, following the leader's conviction for tax evasion in August, when Berlusconi was sentenced to four years of imprisonment, the last three being automatically pardoned. The day before FI had joined the opposition to Enrico Letta's government, which was still supported by Alfano's NCD instead. The NCD voted against Berlusconi's expulsion, but since then completely parted ways from FI.
Internal struggles and Toti's rise
As of the end of December 2013, Berlusconi was set to appoint two vice-presidents: Antonio Tajani (European Commissioner and vice-president of the European People's Party) and Giovanni Toti (former editor of Studio Aperto and TG4, two news programs of Berlusconi's Mediaset). As a result of the resentement by the party's old guard, notably including Fitto, on the alleged appointment of Toti also as coordinator-at-large, Berlusconi appointed him merely "political counselor" to the party.
In the 2014 European Parliament election FI obtained 16.8% of the vote and 13 MEPs elected, including Toti in the North-West, Tajani (who had first been elected to the European Parliament in 1994) in the Centre and, most notably, Fitto (who garnered more than 180,000 votes in his native Apulia alone) in the South.
Fitto, the strongest backer of Berlusconi's leadership in late 2013, became his main internal challenger by mid 2014. After months of bickering with Berlusconi over the so-called "Nazareno pact" with Matteo Renzi, leader of the Democratic Party and Prime Minister, in February 2015 Fitto launched his own faction, named "Rebuilders". Fitto's supporters included Capezzone, Maurizio Bianconi, Rocco Palese, Saverio Romano, Cinzia Bonfrisco, Augusto Minzolini and most Apulian MPs.
2015 regional elections and splits
In the run-up of the 2015 regional elections the party was riven in internal disputes and was divided mainly in three groups: Berlusconi's loyalists, Fitto's "Rebuilders" and nostalgics of the "Nazareno pact". The latter were led by Verdini and some of them, notably including Bondi, were openly pro-Renzi. Bondi, a former Berlusconi loyalist, and his partner Manuela Repetti left the party in March, while other disgruntled Verdiniani propped up the government from time to time. Berlusconi chose Toti as candidate for President in Liguria, confirmed incumbent Stefano Caldoro as the party's standard-bearer in Campania and renewed their support of LN's Luca Zaia in Veneto. However, Berlusconi and Fitto did not find an agreement on the composition of the slates in Apulia, where the two wings of the party fielded two opposing candidates for president, and similar problems arose in Tuscany, Verdini's (and Renzi's) home region and stronghold.
Two weeks before the regional election, Fitto left the European People's Party Group in the European Parliament in order to join the European Conservatives and Reformists. He also left FI altogether and launched his own party, named Conservatives and Reformists (CR) too. By mid July, when CR was formally established as a party, nine deputies, ten senators and another MEP had left FI in order to follow Fitto.
In the elections the party lost many votes, mainly to the LN, and gained more than 10% only in three regions out seven (including Apulia, where the party's candidate did worse than Fitto's one, while, in Veneto, a former stronghold, FI barely reached 6%), but, thanks to the LN's strong showing, Toti was elected President of Liguria.
Another split occurred in late July, when Verdini led his group out of the party and launched the Liberal Popular Alliance (ALA).
Recent events: Parisi v. Toti
In the 2016 Milan municipal election FI found a strong candidate for mayor in Stefano Parisi, a former director-general of Confindustria and CEO of Fastweb, who pulled the party to 20.2% (virtually double than the LN's score), but however narrowly lost to his Democratic opponent in the run-off, Giuseppe Sala.
After the election, FI was basically divided in two camps: one led by Parisi, who did not officially joined the party and proposed a more traditional centre-right "liberal-popular" path, and the other led by Toti, who had formed a strong partnership with Roberto Maroni and Luca Zaia, the LN's Presidents of Lombardy and Veneto, and was supportive of a full-scale alliance with LN and, possibly, of its leader Matteo Salvini's bid to become the leader of the centre-right. In November, when it was clear that Parisi would not come to terms with Salvini, Berlusconi disowned Parisi, who responded by launching his own Energies for Italy party.
Ideology and factions
FI's ideology is similar to that of its predecessor, the PdL, a big tent centre-right party including Christian democrats, liberals, conservatives and social democrats. However, the split occurred between FI and NCD left the former with a more liberal base.
According to an article from Corriere della Sera, on the so-called "ethical issues" (abortion, LGBT rights, etc.), the party, which aims at returning to its 1994's original values (including "liberalism, the socialist roots, even the radical component"), respects its MPs' "freedom of conscience" and is open to civil unions (some members go further and even propose same-sex marriage), while NCD's positions are "closer to those of the European traditionalist right". In October 2014 Berlusconi endorsed Matteo Renzi's proposals on civil unions for gays and a quicker path to citizenship to Italian-born children of immigrants.
Generally speaking, with the long-prepared return to FI, Berlusconi aimed at returning to the party's "liberal roots": in doing that, he reinforced his ties with those liberals, like Antonio Martino, who had been marginalised in the PdL, while losing many of its Christian democrats and conservatives to the NCD.
FI is a very diverse party, including several factions and ideological trends. A list of FI's organised factions and associate parties is available in the following template:
The party's leading faction is, however, not an organised one. Named the "magic circle" by journalists (a reference to a defunct faction within Lega Nord), it is composed of Berlusconi's closest allies, notably including Giovanni Toti, Mariarosaria Rossi, Deborah Bergamini and Francesca Pascale (Berlusconi's partner);
|Election year|| # of
| % of
| # of
overall seats won
13 / 73
|Region||Latest election|| # of
| % of
| # of|
overall seats won
|Abruzzo||2014||112,215 (#3)||16.7|| |
4 / 31
|Apulia||2015||181,896 (#3)||10.8|| |
6 / 51
|Calabria||2014||95,979 (#3)||12.2|| |
5 / 30
|Campania||2015||405,550 (#2)||17.8|| |
7 / 51
|Emilia-Romagna||2014||100,478 (#4)||8.4|| |
2 / 50
|Liguria||2015||68,283 (#4)||12.7|| |
6 / 31
|Marche||2015||49,884 (#4)||9.4|| |
2 / 31
|Piedmont||2014||302,743 (#3)||15.6|| |
7 / 50
|Sardinia||2014||126,327 (#2)||18.5|| |
10 / 60
|Trentino||2013||10,493 (#7)||4.4|| |
0 / 35
|Tuscany||2015||112,658 (#4)||8.5|| |
2 / 41
|Umbria||2015||30,017 (#4)||8.5|| |
2 / 20
|Veneto||2015||110,573 (#5)||6.0|| |
3 / 51
- President: Silvio Berlusconi (2013–present)
- Political Counselor: Giovanni Toti (2014–present)
- Chief of Staff: Mariarosaria Rossi (2014–present)
- Spokesperson: Deborah Bergamini (2014–present)
- Organisational secretary: Gregorio Fontana (2015–present)
- Party Leader in the Chamber of Deputies: Renato Brunetta (2013–present)
- Party Leader in the Senate: Paolo Romani (2013–present)
- Party Leader in the European Parliament: Raffaele Baldassarre (2013–2014), Elisabetta Gardini (2014–present)
- The name is not usually translated into English: forza is the second-person singular imperative of forzare, in this case translating to "to compel" or "to press", and so means something like "Forward, Italy", "Come on, Italy" or "Go, Italy!". Forza Italia! was used as a sport slogan, and was also the slogan of Christian Democracy in the 1987 general election (see Giovanni Baccarin, Che fine ha fatto la DC?, Gregoriana, Padova 2000). See Forza Italia for details.
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