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Leonardo Morlino, "Crisis of Parties and Change of Party System in Italy," Party Politics , 2 (January, 1996), 5-30.

First Paragraph:
Half a century after its re-establishment (1945-7), Italian democracy has entered a phase of far-reaching changes. To date, the most radical of these concerns its parties and party system. This phenomenon, in one of the five largest European countries, may be an important test of the on-going theoretical debate on party change. If until now the main contributions (see recently, for example, Harmel and Janda, 1994 and Harmel et al., 1995) have essentially focused on more limited forms of change, the interest of the Italian case lies in the fact that it compels us to analyse more profound transformations up to the disappearance of one or more parties and changes in the very party system itself.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Election results in 1992 and 1994 (Lower Chamber).
Figure 1: A left-right map of traditional and new parties (1985-95).
Figure 2: Total party membership rate (1946-94).
Table 2: Membership of the main Italian parties (1984-94).
Table 3: Changes in the Italian party system (1946-94).
Figure 3: Electoral strength of Italian parties along a left-right continuum, 1987 (%).
Figure 4: Electoral strength of Italian parties along a left-right continuum,1992 (%).
Figure 5: Electoral strength of Italian parties along a left-right continuum, 1994 (%).

Last Paragraph:
By way of conclusion, it is possible to speculate as to future developments of the party system. On the basis of this analysis the political and institutional choices of party leaders will mainly be responsible for these developments. First, leaders who choose either to moderate and accommodate or to exacerbate political conflicts or to establish some alliance rather than others will push the party system in different, opposing directions. Second, the approval of a different electoral law, such as the double ballot, and the establishment of a strong premiership would strengthen the drift toward moderate pluralism, also by taking away political space from centre parties. In contrast,maintaining the present electoral laws and approving direct election of the head of the state (or, also, of the chancellor) would leave more room for radicalization and consequently the establishment of a neopolarized party system.If no choice is made, the present phase of uncertainty, with both centripetal and centrifugal drives, will be prolonged, with no challenge to democracy as such,but with serious problems in terms of policy performance. In yet a fourth scenario, the decisions on the crucial problem of maintaining or dismantling the welfare institutions to curb the enormous public deficit may well provoke reactions from civil society, the deligitimation of forces that at the moment are poorly institutionalized, and new crises and changes in parties. Again much of the stake is in the decision or non-decision the party leaders will be able to make.