Italy is a European country with a population of 61 million, making it the most populous country in southern Europe. It is bordered by France, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, San Marino and Vatican City (which is set within Italy itself). The country covers 116,350 square miles and is surrounded by the Mediterranean sea.
Historically, Italy has always been extremely culturally diverse, owing largely to its geographical location – it is the fifth most-visited country in the world with a record 54 World Heritage Sites. It has the eighth largest economy in the world and the third largest in the Eurozone, and is considered to have an advanced economy with superior human development.
Italy is a regional and great power in terms of the global perspective, with significant influence on the world economy, military activities, cultural trends and diplomacy. As a founding member of the European Union, Italy is an international trailblazer, with membership in the United Nations, NATO, the OCED, the G7 and G20, the Union for the Mediterranean, and the Council of Europe.
How is it structured?
The Italian Parliament has a bicameral system made up of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, which is elected on a five-year basis.
The Chamber of Deputies features 630 deputies elected by voters aged eighteen or older. Twelve of the 630 are elected via the overseas constituencies, which are composed of four electoral zones which elect at least one Deputy and Senator for Parliament, with remaining seats distributed based on the proportion of Italians living in each zone. The electoral zones: Europe (including Russia and Turkey); South America; North and Central America; Africa, Asia, Oceania and Antarctica.
The Senate is elected by voters who are twenty-five or older, and features 315 senators, with six elected via the same overseas constituencies as those of the Chamber of Deputies. Some senators retain the title for life, such as former Presidents and those who the Presidents appoint for honouring the nation (up to five nominees per President, all of whom must be at least forty years old on election day). Senators are elected for each region for the Senate of the Republic via a proportional representation system.
The Italian Government is constitutionally made up of the Primer Minister and Ministers. The Prime Minister (also known as the President of Council) is appointed by the President of Italy, as are the Ministers who form his cabinet, based on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The Government must have the support of both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, so Parliament exercises a significant degree of control over the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.
The Prime Minister can be removed through a vote of no confidence from the majority coalition in Parliament, after which the President must either dissolve Parliament for new elections or appoint a new Prime Minister from within the current Parliament to lead it. There have been nineteen legislatures, forty-three consecutive premierships, and sixty-five different cabinets in the history of the Italian Government.
Who’s in charge?
The President of Italy is responsible for upholding many of the same duties as the King of Italy once had, as his role brings together the three branches of the Italian political framework – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. He also acts as the commander-in-chief of the Italian military.
Constitutionally, any Italian citizen over the age of fifty who has civil and political rights can be elected president. In addition, the President cannot retain office in any other institution and has a salary and privileges set in stone by the law. The President has the power to authorise bills, dissolve Parliament, call a referendum, declare war, and grant pardons, among many others; he can be impeached in instances of high treason or constitutional violations.
How is justice done?
The judicial system in Italy is derived from Roman law and the Napoleonic code, and is a mix of adversarial and inquisitorial law systems.
The Italian judiciary branch is completely autonomous and independent, but the Minister of Justice remains responsible for any services linked to justice and can discipline judges if required. The Constitutional Court has authority over primary legislation only. Italy accepted the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in 2014.