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Daniele Albertazzi, Duncan McDonnell, and James L. Newell, "Di lotta e di governo: The Lega Nord and Rifondazione Comunista in office," Party Politics, 17 (July, 2011), 471-487. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol17/issue4/ ]

First paragraph:
Until 1994, the division in the Italian political system between insider and outsider parties was set in stone. Inside, there was a group of parties around the Democrazia Cristiana (DC &endash; Christian Democracy) at the centre which had served in government for decades while, outside, there were those of the Left and Right which had remained steadfastly in opposition. To put it in Sartorian terms, there was a fixed set of parties with governing/ coalition potential and the remainder with, at best, blackmail potential (Sartori, 1976: 122&endash;4). This was to change over the five-year period from 1989 to 1994, with the demise of almost all the traditional parties (both insiders and outsiders), the rise of new ones, the adoption of new electoral systems at all levels of government and the imposition of electoral bipolarism on what remained a multiparty system. Significantly, incumbent and opposition forces have, to an extent, continued to deny each other legitimacy as potentially governing actors. However, given the need to create broad centre-right and centre-left coalitions capable of winning elections, Italian politics moved in the 1990s frombeing characterized by the 'conventio ad excludendum' (agreement to exclude) of the First Republic which had kept the Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI &endash; Italian Communist Party) and the far-Right Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI &endash; Italian Social Movement) permanently out of government towards what has been called the 'coercitio ad includendum' (coercion to include) of the Second (McDonnell, 2007: 88), as part of a systemic change in which, to return to Sartori, almost all parties have gained coalition potential and most have held governmental relevance. Consequently, participation in government has become a possibility for all but the most extreme, anti-system parties, with greens, radical left, radical right, personal, populist and regionalist parties serving in office over the past 15 years.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. LN, RC and PDCI General and European Election results, 1994-2008.

Last Paragraph:
The greater ideological flexibility of the Lega compared to RC also gives it much more room for manoeuvre in its attempts to square the circle of voice and loyalty, protest and compromise. For very similar reasons, the LN seems at an advantage compared to RC by the fact that its ideological tenets tend to chime much more closely with prevailing cultural assumptions. With regard to the differences between the parties and their potential allies, we have seen that the Lega was assisted during the 2001&endash;6 period by the support of a prime minister who shared its populism and was, by Italian standards, unusually powerful. RC, as a party very much on the fringes of the coalition of which it was a part &endash; a radical party within a coalition of much less radical parties &endash; could find no such support. A natural test of the significance of this factor will of course be offered when Berlusconi eventually leaves the political scene, assuming his place is taken by a more conventional leader who provides the Lega with fewer sources of sustenance.

Last updated August 2011