Silent constitutional transformations on executive-legislative relations during the pandemic? The case of Italy

Nicola Lupo (Rom) 

Berliner Seminar Recht im Kontext

The provisions of the Italian Constitution (1948) on the relations between executive and Legislative, designing a mildly rationalized parliamentary form of government, have been the object of several constitutional reform proposals in the last 35 years. Several constitutional reforms have been drafted by parliamentary committees and two of them have even been approved by the two Houses, but then rejected by the citizens through constitutional referendums held in 2006 (on a revision of the entire second part of the Constitution, proposed by the Berlusconi Government) and in 2016 (on a revision of the symmetrical bicameralism, proposed by the Renzi Government). 

The lecture will show that the failure of these constitutional reforms does not mean that the rules of the Italian form of government have remained the same. Indeed, executive-Legislative relations have been deeply influenced by three factors. First, by the electoral law, which has been rewritten – by abrogative referendums, parliament, or Constitutional Court – at least seven times in the same timeframe. Second, by the effects of the European Union membership, which has strengthened the executive and, within it, the President of the Council of Ministers. Third, by the Covid-19 pandemic, which – further accelerating the already ongoing trends, as it happened in many other fields – called upon the Government to adopt by “omnibus” decree-laws and decrees of the President of the Council a large amount of the measures severely limiting the freedoms of the citizens and compensating the economic and social effects of the pandemic. 
All these transformations determined an incomplete and up to a certain extent imbalanced evolution, as this strengthening took place without formally increasing the enumerated powers of either the executive or its President, but only through a more intense usage of their original toolkit. The question, for the future, is to verify whether these transformations will stabilize for the future and whether this increased role of the executive will find some countermeasures – through reforms of the Constitution or of the parliamentary rules of procedures – on the part of a parliament whose composition, in the meantime, has been rather severely reduced by a constitutional amendment confirmed by a referendum in 2020.

Nicola Lupo is a full professor of public law and the director of the Center for Parliamentary Studies at the LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome. He holds a Jean Monnet chair (2018-2021) on “Understanding European Representative Democracy” and is a visiting professor at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun (Poland). His publications concern sources of law, parliamentary rules of procedures, legal drafting, budgetary procedures, regional councils and parliaments in the EU.