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The Radical Party (Partito Radicale, PR) was a radical political party in Italy.

It was founded in 1877 by Agostino Bertani and Felice Cavallotti as a radical-liberal party of what was then considered the "far left", from the name of the parliamentary group the Radicals formed with Andrea Costa, the first Socialist elected to the Italian Parliament, in 1882. The Radicals supported complete separation of church and state, decentralization giving more powers to municipal governments, the United States of Europe according to Carlo Cattaneo's beliefs, the progressive tax, an independent judiciary, free and compulsory education for children, universal suffrage for both men and women, women's and workers' rights, while opposed capital punishment, as well as any form of protectionism, nationalism, imperialism and colonialism.[1][2][3]

Leading Radicals included Ernesto Nathan, who was Mayor of Rome with the support of the Italian Socialist Party and the Italian Republican Party from 1907 to 1913, Romolo Murri, a Catholic priest who was suspended for having joined the party and who is widely considered in Italy as the precursor of Christian democracy, and Francesco Saverio Nitti. Under the leadership of the latter, the Radicals became part of the governing coalition dominated by the Liberals of Giovanni Giolitti, who had positioned his party toward the centre-left and supported many Radical reforms, while the Radicals moved to the political centre. Nitti himself was Minister of the Treasury from 1917 to 1919 and Prime Minister from 1919 to 1920.[2][3]

The Radicals, who obtained their best result in the 1913 general election (8.6% and 73 seats in the Chamber of Deputies), before presenting joint candidates with the Liberals in 54% of the constituencies in the 1919 general election, were strong in Lombardy (where Carlo Cattaneo was from and where Lega Lombarda/Lega Nord would emerge in the 1990s), notably in the northern Province of Sondrio and the south-eastern Province of Mantua, Northern Veneto and Friuli, Emilia-Romagna and Central Italy and especially in the area of Rome.[4]

In the 1900s and the 1910s they lost votes in Emilia to the Socialists and in Romagna to the Republicans, but strengthened their positions in Veneto, notably holding for almost twenty years the single-seat constituencies of Venice and Padua, and in Southern Italy, where they were previously almost non-existent. For the 1921 general election the Radicals joined forces with several minor liberal parties in order to form the Democratic Liberal Party. The list gained 10.5% of the vote and 68 seats, doing particularly well in Piedmont and the South.[4]

After World War II some former Radicals led by Francesco Saverio Nitti joined the National Democratic Union alongside Liberals and other elements of the old Liberal elite that governed Italy from the years of Giovanni Giolitti until the rise of Benito Mussolini and the instauration of the Fascist regime. The Radicals who were once the far left of the Italian political spectrum were finally associated with the old liberal establishment, which was replaced by Christian Democracy as the leading political force in the country. Some left-wing elements of the old Radical Party took however part to the foundation of the Action Party, while a new Radical Party was launched in 1955 by the left-wing of the Italian Liberal Party. These new Radicals, whose leader was steadily Marco Pannella since 1963, claimed to be the ideal successors of Cavallotti's Radicals.[2][3]


  1. ^ Francesco Leoni, Storia dei partiti politici italiani, Guida, Naples 2001
  2. ^ a b c Massimo L. Salvadori, Enciclopedia storica, Zanichelli, Bologna 2000
  3. ^ a b c David Busato, Il Partito Radicale in Italia da Mario Pannunzio a Marco Pannella, 1996
  4. ^ a b Piergiorgio Corbetta; Maria Serena Piretti, Atlante storico-elettorale d'Italia, Zanichelli, Bologna 2009


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