The party's secretary is Maurizio Martina, who was elected by the national assembly in July 2018 to replace Matteo Renzi, who resigned after the party's defeat in the 2018 general election. Matteo Orfini serves as president.
The PD was founded on 14 October 2007 upon the merger of various centre-left parties which had been part of The Olive Tree list and The Union coalition in the 2006 general election. They notably included: the social-democratic Democrats of the Left (DS), successors of the Italian Communist Party and the Democratic Party of the Left, which was folded with several social-democratic parties (Labour Federation, Social Christians, etc.) in 1998; and the largely Catholic-inspired Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy (DL), merger of the Italian People's Party (heir of the Christian Democracy party's left-wing), The Democrats and Italian Renewal in 2002. The PD's main ideological trends are thus social democracy and the Italian Christian leftist tradition. The party has been also influenced by social liberalism, which was already present in some of the founding components of the DS and DL, and more generally by a Third Way progressivism.
The PD was the second-largest party in Italy in the 2018 general election, and it is currently the third-largest in the Chamber of Deputies and fourth-largest in the Senate by number of MPs. As of July 2018, Democrats head eleven regional governments out of twenty and function as coalition partners in two more regions.
Since 2013 the Italian government has been led by three successive Democratic Prime Ministers: Enrico Letta (2013–2014), Matteo Renzi (2014–2016), and Paolo Gentiloni (2016–2018). Prominent Democrats include Walter Veltroni (secretary, 2007–2009), Dario Franceschini (secretary, 2009), Piero Fassino, Marco Minniti, Graziano Delrio, Pier Carlo Padoan, Carlo Calenda, Maria Elena Boschi, Federica Mogherini, Debora Serracchiani, Lorenzo Guerini, Ettore Rosato, Luigi Zanda, Sergio Chiamparino, Stefano Bonaccini, Nicola Zingaretti, Vincenzo De Luca, Michele Emiliano, Giuseppe Sala, Leoluca Orlando, Virginio Merola and Dario Nardella. Former members include Giorgio Napolitano (President of Italy, 2006–2015), Sergio Mattarella (President of Italy, since 2015), Romano Prodi, Giuliano Amato, Massimo D'Alema, Pier Luigi Bersani (secretary, 2009–2013), Guglielmo Epifani (secretary, 2013), Francesco Rutelli and Pietro Grasso.
|Founded||14 October 2007|
Democrats of the Left|
Democracy is Freedom
Via Sant'Andrea delle Fratte 16|
(Largo del Nazareno)
|Youth wing||Young Democrats|
|National affiliation||Centre-left coalition|
|European affiliation||Party of European Socialists|
|International affiliation||Progressive Alliance|
|European Parliament group||Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats|
|Chamber of Deputies||
111 / 630
53 / 315
26 / 73
11 / 20
259 / 897
In the early 1990s, following Tangentopoli scandals, the end of the so-called First Republic and the transformation of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) into the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), a process aimed at uniting left-wing and centre-left forces into a single political entity was started.
In 1995 Romano Prodi, a former minister of Industry on behalf of the left-wing faction of Christian Democracy (DC), entered politics and founded The Olive Tree (L'Ulivo), a centre-left coalition including the PDS, the Italian People's Party (PPI), the Federation of the Greens (FdV), Italian Renewal (RI), the Italian Socialists (SI) and Democratic Union (UD). The coalition, in alliance with the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), won the 1996 general election and Prodi became Prime Minister.
In February 1998 the PDS merged with minor social-democratic parties (Labour Federation, Social Christians, etc.) to become the Democrats of the Left (DS), while in March 2002 the PPI, RI and The Democrats (Prodi's own party, launched in 1999) became Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy (DL). In the summer of 2003 Prodi suggested that the centre-left forces would participate in the 2004 European Parliament election with a common list. Whereas the Union of Democrats for Europe (UDEUR) and the far-left parties refused, four parties accepted: the DS, DL, the Italian Democratic Socialists (SDI) and the European Republicans Movement (MRE). They launched a joint list named "United in the Olive Tree" (Uniti nell'Ulivo), which ran in the election and garnered 31.1% of the vote. The project was later abandoned in 2005 by the SDI.
In the 2006 general election the list obtained 31.3% of the vote for the Chamber of Deputies.
The project of a "Democratic Party" was often mentioned by Prodi as the natural evolution of The Olive Tree and was bluntly envisioned by Michele Salvati, a former centrist deputy of the DS, in an appeal in Il Foglio newspaper in April 2013. The term Partito Democratico was used for the first time in a formal context by the DL and DS members of the Regional Council of Veneto, who chose to form a joint group named The Olive Tree – Venetian Democratic Party (L'Ulivo – Partito Democratico Veneto) in March 2007.
The 2006 election result, anticipated by the 2005 primary election in which over four million voters endorsed Prodi as candidate for Prime Minister, gave a push to the project of a unified centre-left party. Eight parties agreed to merge into the PD:
While the DL agreed to the merger with virtually no resistance, the DS experienced a more heated final congress. On 19 April 2007 approximately 75% of party members voted in support of the merger of the DS into the PD. The left-wing opposition, led by Fabio Mussi, obtained just 15% of the support within the party. A third motion, presented by Gavino Angius and supportive of the PD only within the Party of European Socialists (PES), obtained 10% of the vote. During and following the congress, both Mussi and Angius announced their intention not to join the PD and founded a new party called Democratic Left (SD).
On 22 May 2007 the composition of the organising committee of the nascent party was announced. It featured 45 members, mainly politicians from the two aforementioned major parties and the leaders of the other six minor parties, but included also external figures such as Giuliano Amato, Marcello De Cecco, Gad Lerner, Carlo Petrini and Tullia Zevi. On 18 June the committee met to decide the rules for the open election of the 2,400 members of the party's constituent assembly. Prodi announced each voter would choose between a number of lists, each of them associated with a candidate for secretary.
All candidates interested in running for the PD leadership had to be associated with one of the founding parties and present at least 2,000 valid signatures by 30 July 2007. A total of ten candidates officially registered their candidacy: Walter Veltroni, Rosy Bindi, Enrico Letta, Furio Colombo, Marco Pannella, Antonio Di Pietro, Mario Adinolfi, Pier Giorgio Gawronski, Jacopo Schettini, Lucio Cangini and Amerigo Rutigliano. Of these, Pannella and Di Pietro were rejected because of their involvement in external parties (the Radicals and Italy of Values respectively), whereas Cangini and Rutigliano did not manage to present the necessary 2,000 valid signatures for the 9pm deadline, and Colombo's candidacy was instead made into hiatus in order to give him 48 additional hours to integrate the required documentation; Colombo later decided to retire his candidacy citing his impossibility to fit with all the requirements. All rejected candidates had the chance against the decision in 48 hours' time, with Pannella and Rutigliano being the only two candidates to appeal against it. Both were rejected on 3 August.
On 14 October 2007 Veltroni was elected leader with about 75% of the national votes in an open primary attended by over three million voters. Veltroni was proclaimed secretary during a party's constituent assembly held in Milan on 28 October 2007.
On 21 November, the new logo was unveiled; it depicts the party acronym PD with colours reminiscent of the Italian tricolour flag (green, white and red) and features an olive branch, the historical symbol of The Olive Tree. In the words of Ermete Realacci, green represents the ecologist and social-liberal cultures, white is for the Catholic solidarity and red for the socialist and social-democratic traditions. The "green-white-red" idea was coined by Schettini during his campaign.
After the premature fall of the Prodi II Cabinet in January 2008, the PD decided to form a less diverse coalition. The party invited the Radicals and the Socialist Party (PS) to join its lists, but only the Radicals accepted, and formed an alliance with Italy of Values (IdV), which was set to join the PD after the election. The PD included many notable candidates and new faces in its lists and Walter Veltroni, who tried to present the PD as the party of the renewal in contrast both with Silvio Berlusconi and the previous centre-left government, ran an intense and modern campaign, which led him to visit all provinces of Italy, but that was not enough.
In the 2008 general election on 13–14 April 2008 the PD–IdV coalition won 37.5% of the vote and was defeated by the centre-right coalition, composed of The People of Freedom (PdL), the Lega Nord and the Movement for the Autonomy (46.8%). The PD was able to absorb some votes from the parties of the far left (as also IdV did), but lost voters to the Union of the Centre (UdC), ending up with 33.2% of the vote, 217 deputies and 119 senators. After the election Veltroni, who was gratified by the result, formed a shadow cabinet. IdV, excited by its 4.4% which made it the fourth largest party in Parliament, refused to join both the Democratic groups and the shadow cabinet.
The early months after the election were a difficult time for the PD and Veltroni, whose leadership was weakened by the growing influence of internal factions, because of the popularity of Berlusconi and the dramatic rise of IdV in opinion polls. IdV became a strong competitor of the PD and the relations between the two parties became tense. In the 2008 Abruzzo regional election the PD was forced to support IdV candidate Carlo Costantini. In October Veltroni, who distanced from Di Pietro many times, declared that "on some issues he [Di Pietro] is distant from the democratic language of the centre-left".
In February 2009, after a crushing defeat in the Sardinian regional election, Walter Veltroni resigned as party secretary and was replaced by his deputy Dario Franceschini on an interim basis to guide the party toward the selection of a new stable leader. Franceschini was elected by the party's national assembly with 1,047 votes out of 1,258. His only opponent Arturo Parisi won a mere 92 votes. Franceschini was the first former Christian Democrat to lead the party.
The 2009 European Parliament election was an important test for the PD. Prior to the election, the PD considered offering hospitality to the Socialist Party (PS) and the Greens in its lists, and proposed a similar pact to Democratic Left (SD). However, the Socialists, the Greens and Democratic Left decided instead to contest the election together as a new alliance called Left and Freedom, which failed to achieve the 4% threshold required to return any MEPs, but damaged the PD, which gained 26.1% of the vote, returning 21 MEPs.
The national congress and the subsequent leadership primary were announced for October. By July three candidates announced their bid: Pier Luigi Bersani, Ignazio Marino and the outgoing secretary Dario Franceschini.
In the local congresses a 56.4% of party members voted and Bersani was by far the most voted candidate with 55.1% of the vote, largely ahead of Franceschini (37.0%) and Marino (7.9%). On 25 October 2009, Bersani was elected new secretary of the party with about 53% of the vote in an open primary in which three million people participated. Franceschini got 34% and Marino 13%. On 7 November, during the first meeting of the new national assembly, Bersani was declared secretary, Rosy Bindi was elected party president (with Marina Sereni and Ivan Scalfarotto vice-presidents), Enrico Letta deputy secretary and Antonio Misiani treasurer.
In reaction to the election of Bersani, perceived by some moderates as an old-style social democrat, Francesco Rutelli, a long-time critic of the party's course, and other centrists and liberals within the PD left in order to form a new centrist party, named Alliance for Italy (ApI). Following March 2009, and especially after Bersani's victory, many deputies, senators, one MEP and several regional/local councillors left the party to join the UdC, ApI and other minor parties: they included many Rutelliani and most Theo-Dems.
In March 2010 a big round of regional elections, involving eleven regions, took place. The PD lost four regions to the centre-right (Piedmont, Lazio, Campania and Calabria), and maintained its hold on six (Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Marche, Umbria and Basilicata), plus Apulia, a traditionally conservative region where, due to divisions within the centre-right, Nichi Vendola of SEL was re-elected with the PD's support.
In September 2011 Bersani was invited by Antonio Di Pietro's IdV to take part to its annual late summer convention in Vasto, Abruzzo. Bersani, who had been accused by Di Pietro of avoiding him in order to court the centre-right UdC, proposed the formation of a "New Olive Tree" coalition comprising the PD, IdV and SEL. The three party leaders agreed in what was soon dubbed the "pact of Vasto". However, after the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi as Prime Minister in November 2011, the PD gave external support to Mario Monti's technocratic government, along with the PdL and the UdC, effectively broking with IdV and SEL.
A year after the "pact of Vasto", the relations between the PD and IdV had become tense. IdV and its leader, Antonio Di Pietro, were thus excluded from the coalition talks led by Bersani. To these talks were instead invited SEL, led by Nichi Vendola, and the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), led by Riccardo Nencini. The talks resulted, on 13 October 2012, in the "Pact of Democrats and Progressives" (later known as Italy. Common Good) and produced the rules for the upcoming centre-left primary election, during which the PD–SEL–PSI joint candidate for Prime Minister in the 2013 general election would be selected.
In the primary the strongest challenge to Bersani was posed by a fellow Democrat, the 37-year-old mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi, a liberal moderniser, who had officially launched his leadership bid on 13 September 2012 in Verona, Veneto. Bersani launched his own bid on 14 October in his hometown Bettola, north-western Emilia. Other candidates included Nichi Vendola (SEL), Bruno Tabacci (ApI), and Laura Puppato (PD).
In the meantime, in the 2012 regional election Rosario Crocetta, a Democrat, was elected President with 30.5% of the vote thanks to the support of the UdC, but the coalition failed to secure an outright majority in the Regional Assembly. For the first time in 50 years, a man of the left had the chance to govern Sicily.
On 25 November Bersani came ahead in the first round of the primary election with 44.9% of the vote, Renzi came second with 35.5%, followed by Vendola (15.6%), Puppato (2.6%) and Tabacci (1.4%). Bersani did better in the South, while Renzi prevailed in Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche. In the subsequent run-off, on 2 December, Bersani trounced Renzi 60.9% to 39.1%, by winning in each and every single region but Tuscany, where Renzi won 54.9% of the vote. The PD secretary did particularly well in Lazio (67.8%), Campania (69.4%), Apulia (71.4%), Basilicata (71.7%), Calabria (74.4%), Sicily (66.5%), and Sardinia (73.5%).
In the election the PD and its coalition fared much worse than expected and according to pollsters predictions. The PD won just 25.4% of the vote for the Chamber of Deputies (–8.0% from 2008) and the centre-left coalition narrowly won the majority in the house over the centre-right coalition (29.5% to 29.3%). Even worse, in the Senate the PD and its allies failed to get an outright majority, due to the rise of the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-right's victory in key regions, such as Lombardy, Veneto, Campania, Apulia, Calabria and Sicily (the centre-right was awarded of the majority premium in those regions, leaving the centre-left with just a handful of elects there). Consequently, the PD-led coalition was unable to govern alone because it lacked a majority in the Senate, which has equal power to the Chamber. As a result, Bersani, who refused any agreement with the PdL and was rejected by the M5S, failed to form a government.
On 17 April, after an agreement with the centre-right parties, Bersani put forward Franco Marini as his party's candidate for President to succeed to Giorgio Napolitano. However, Renzi, several Democratic delegates and SEL announced that they would not support Marini. On 18 April Marini received just 521 votes in the first ballot, short of the 672 needed, as more than 200 centre-left delegates rebelled. On 19 April the PD and SEL selected Romano Prodi to be their candidate in the fourth ballot. Despite his candidacy had received unanimous support among the two parties' delegates, Prodi obtained only 395 votes in the fourth ballot as more than 100 centre-left electors did not vote for him. After the vote, Prodi pulled out of the race and Bersani announced his resignation from party secretary. Also Bindi, the party's president, announced her resignation as she did not want to carry responsibility for the party's bad management during the past weeks. The day after Napolitano accepted to stand again for election and was re-elected President with the support of most parliamentary parties.
On 28 April Enrico Letta, the party's deputy secretary and former Christian Democrat, was sworn in as Prime Minister of Italy at the head of a government based around a grand coalition including the PdL, Civic Choice (SC) and the UdC. Letta was the first Democrat to become Prime Minister.
After Bersani's resignation from party secretary on 20 April 2013, the PD remained without a leader for two weeks.
On 11 May 2013 at the national assembly of the party Guglielmo Epifani was elected secretary with 85.8% of vote. Epifani, secretary-general of the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), Italy's largest trade union, from 2002 to 2010, was the first former Socialist to lead the party. Epifani's mission was to lead the party toward a national congress in October.
A few weeks after Epifani's election as secretary, the PD had a success in the 2013 local elections, winning in 69 comuni (including Rome and all the other 14 provincial capitals up for election), while the PdL won 22 and the M5S 1.
On 9 November Epifani announced that the PD would organise the next congress of the Party of European Socialists (PES) in Rome in early 2014, sparking protests among some of the party's Christian democrats, who opposed PES membership.
Epifani was however little more than a secretary pro tempore and, in fact, he frequently repeated that he was not going to run for a full term as secretary in the leadership race that would take place in late 2013, saying that his candidacy would be a betrayal of his mandate. Four individuals filed their bid on 11 October: Matteo Renzi, Pippo Civati, Gianni Cuperlo and Gianni Pittella.
As usual, the leadership race started with voting by party members in local conventions (7–17 November). Renzi came first with 45.3%, followed by Cuperlo (39.4%), Civati (9.4%) and Pittella (5.8%). The first three were thus admitted to the open primary.
On 8 December Renzi, who won in all regions but was stronger in the Centre-North, trounced his opponents with 67.6% of the vote. Cuperlo, whose support was higher in the South, came second with 18.2%, while Civati, whose message did well with northern urban and progressive voters, third with 14.2%. On 15 December Renzi, whose executive included many young people and a majority of women, was proclaimed secretary by the party's national assembly, while Cuperlo was elected president, as proposed by Renzi.
On 20 January 2014 Cuperlo criticized the electoral reform proposed by Renzi in agreement with Berlusconi, but the proposal was overwhelmingly approved by the party's national board. The day after the vote, Cuperlo resigned from president. He was later replaced by Matteo Orfini, who hailed from the party's left-wing, but since then became more and more supportive of Renzi.
After frequent calls by Renzi for a "new phase", on 13 February the national board decided to put an end to Letta's government and form a new one led by Renzi, as the latter had proposed. Subsequently, on 22 February Renzi was sworn in as Prime Minister at the head of an identical coalition. On 28 February the PD officially joined the PES as a full member, ending a decade-long debate.
In the 2014 European Parliament election the party obtained 40.8% of the vote and 31 seats. The party's score was virtually 15 percentage points up from five years before and the best result for an Italian party in a nationwide election since the 1958 general election, when Christian Democracy won 42.4%. Also, the PD was the largest national party within the Parliament in its 8th term. Following his party's success, Renzi was able to secure the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy within the European Commission for Federica Mogherini, his minister of Foreign Affairs.
In January 2015 Sergio Mattarella, a veteran left-wing Christian Democrat and founding member of the PD, whose candidacy had been proposed by Renzi and unanimously endorsed by the party's delegates, was elected President of Italy during a presidential election triggered by President Giorgio Napolitano's resignation.
During Renzi's first year as Prime Minister, several MPs defected from other parties to join the PD. They comprised splinters from SEL (most of whom led by Gennaro Migliore, see Freedom and Rights), SC (notably including Stefania Giannini, Pietro Ichino and Andrea Romano), and the M5S. Consequently, the party increased its parliamentary numbers to 311 deputies and 114 senators by April 2015. Otherwise, Sergio Cofferati, Giuseppe Civati and Stefano Fassina left. They were the first and most notable splinters among the ranks of the party's internal left, but several others followed either Civati (who launched Possible) or Fassina (who launched Future to the Left and Italian Left) in the following months, and, by May 2016, the PD's parliamentary numbers had gone down to 303 deputies and 114 senators.
In the 2015 regional elections Democratic Presidents were elected (or re-elected) in five regions out of seven: Enrico Rossi in Tuscany, Luca Ceriscioli in Marche, Catiuscia Marini in Umbria, Vincenzo De Luca in Campania and Michele Emiliano in Apulia. As a result, 16 regions out of 20, including all those of central and southern Italy, were governed by the centre-left, while the opposition Lega Nord led Veneto and Lombardy, and propped up a centre-right government in Liguria.
After a huge defeat in the 2016 constitutional referendum (59.9% no, 40.1% yes), in December 2016 Renzi tendered his resignation as Prime Minister and was replaced by fellow Democrat Paolo Gentiloni, whose government's composition and coalition were very similar to those of the Renzi Cabinet. Following these developments, Renzi resigned also from PD secretary in February 2017 in order to run in the 2017 leadership election. Renzi, Andrea Orlando (one of the leaders of the Remake Italy faction; the other leader Matteo Orfini was the party's president and supported Renzi) and Michele Emiliano were the three contenders for the party's leadership.
Contextually and after, a substantial group of leftists (24 deputies, 14 senators and 3 MEPs), led Enrico Rossi (Democratic Socialists) and Roberto Speranza (Reformist Area), backed by Massimo D'Alema, Pier Luigi Bersani and Guglielmo Epifani, left the PD and formed Article 1 – Democratic and Progressive Movement (MDP), along with splinters from the Italian Left (SI) led by Arturo Scotto. Most of the splinters, as well a Scotto, were former Democrats of the Left. In December 2017 the MDP, SI and Possible would launch Free and Equal (LeU), under the leadership of the President of the Senate Pietro Grasso (another PD splinter).
In local conventions Renzi came first (66.7%), Orlando second (25.3%), Emiliano third (8.0%). In the open primary (30 April) Renzi won 69.2% of the vote, as opposed to Orlando's 20.0% and Emiliano's 10.9%. On 7 May Renzi was sworn in as secretary again, with Maurizio Martina as deputy, and Orfini was confirmed president.
In the run-up of the 2018 general election the PD tried to form a broad centre-left coalition, but only minor parties showed interest. As of January 2018, the PD was in alliance with Together (a list notably including the Italian Socialist Party and the Federation of the Greens), the Popular Civic List (notably including Popular Alternative, Italy of Values, the Centrists for Europe and Solidary Democracy) and, possibly, More Europe (including the Italian Radicals, Forza Europa and the Democratic Centre).
In the election the PD obtained its worst result ever: 18.7% of the vote, well behind the M5S (32.7%) and narrowly ahead of the Lega (17.4%). Following his party's defeat, Renzi resigned from secretary and his deputy Martina started functioning as acting secretary.
After two months of negotiations and the refusal of the PD refused to join forces with the M5S, the latter and the Lega formed a yellow-green government, under Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, a M5S-proposed independent. The PD thus returned to opposition after virtually seven years and experienced some internal turmoil as its internal factions started to re-position themselves in the new context. Both Gentiloni and Franceschini distanced from Renzi, while Carlo Calenda, a former minister in Renzi's and Gentiloni's governments who had joined the party soon after the election, proposed to merge the PD into a larger "republican front". However, according to several observers, Renzi's grip over the party was still strong and he was still the PD's leader behind the scenes.
The PD is a big tent centre-left party, influenced by the ideas of social democracy and Christian left. The common roots of the founding components of the party reside in the Italian resistance movement, the writing of Italian Constitution and the Historic Compromise, all three events which saw the Italian Communist Party and Christian Democracy (the two major forerunners of the Democrats of the Left and Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy, respectively) cooperate. The United States Democratic Party and American liberalism are also important sources of inspiration. In a 2008 interview to El País, Veltroni, who can be considered the main founding father of the party, clearly stated that the PD should be considered a "reformist" party and could not be linked to the traditional values of the left-wing.
To be sure, there is however a debate on whether the PD is actually a social-democratic party and to what extent. For instance, Alfred Pfaller observed that the PD "has adopted a pronounced centrist-pragmatic position, trying to appeal to a broad spectrum of middle-class and working-class voters, but shying away from a determined pursuit of redistributive goals". For his part, Gianfranco Pasquino observed that "for almost all the leaders, militants and members of the PD, social democracy has never been part of their part nor should represent their political goal", but also concluded that "its overall identity and perception are by no means those of an European-style social-democratic party".
The party stresses national and social cohesion, progressivism, a moderate social liberalism, green issues, progressive taxation and (pro-)Europeanism. In this respect, the party's precursors strongly supported the need of balancing budgets in order to comply to Maastricht criteria. Under Veltroni and, more recently, Renzi, the party took a strong stance in favour of constitutional reform and of a new electoral law, on the road toward a two-party system.
While traditionally supporting the social integration of immigrants, since 2017 the PD has adopted a more critical approach on the issue. Inspired by Renzi, re-elected secretary in April, and Marco Minniti, interior minister since December 2016, the party promoted stricter policies regarding immigration and public security. These policies resulted in broad criticism from the left-wing Democrats and Progressives (partners in government) as well as left-leaning intellectuals like Roberto Saviano and Gad Lerner. In August Lerner, who was among the founding members of the PD, left the party altogether, due to its new immigration policies.
The PD is a plural party, including several distinct ideological trends:
It is not an easy task to include the trend represented by Matteo Renzi, whose supporters have been known as "Big Bangers", "Now!" or, more frequently, Renziani, in any of the categories above. The nature of Renzi's progressivism is a matter of debate and has been linked both to liberalism and populism. According to Maria Teresa Meli of Corriere della Sera, Renzi "pursues a precise model, borrowed from the Labour Party and Bill Clinton's Democratic Party", comprising "a strange mix (for Italy) of liberal policies in the economic sphere and populism. This means that, on one side, he will attack the privileges of trade unions, especially of the CGIL, which defends only the already protected, while, on the other, he will sharply attack the vested powers, bankers, Confindustria and a certain type of capitalism [...]."
International affiliation was quite a controversial issue for the PD in its early days and, in fact, it was settled only in 2014.
The debate on which European political party to join saw the former Democrats of the Left generally in favour of the Party of European Socialists (PES) and most former members of Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy in favour of the European Democratic Party (EDP), a component of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group. After the party's formation in 2007, the new party's MEPs continued to sit with the PES and ALDE groups to which their former parties had been elected during the 2004 European Parliament election. Following the 2009 European Parliament election, the party's 21 MEPs chose to unite for the new term within the European parliamentary group of the PES, which was renamed the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).
On 15 December 2012 PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani attended in Rome the founding convention of the Progressive Alliance (PA), a nascent political international for parties dissatisfied with the continued admittance and inclusion of authoritarian movements into the Socialist International (SI). On 22 May 2013 the PD was a founding member of the PA at the international's official inauguration in Leipzig, Germany on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the formation of the General German Workers' Association, the oldest of the two parties which merged in 1875 in order to form the Social Democratic Party of Germany.
Matteo Renzi, a centrist who led the party in 2013–2018, wanted the party to join both the SI and the PES. On 20 February 2014 the PD leadership applied for full membership of the PES. In Renzi's view, the party would count more as a member of a major European party and, within the PES, it would join forces with alike parties such as the British Labour Party. On 28 February the PD was welcomed as a full member into the PES.
The PD includes several internal factions, most of which trace the previous allegiances of party members. Factions form different alliances depending on the issues and some party members have multiple factional allegiances.
After the election, which saw the victory of Walter Veltroni, the party's internal composition was as follows:
Three national lists supported the candidacy of Veltroni. The bulk of the former Democrats of the Left (Veltroniani, Dalemiani, Fassiniani), the Rutelliani of Francesco Rutelli (including the Theo-Dem), The Populars of Franco Marini, Liberal PD, the Social Christians and smaller groups (Middle Italy, European Republicans Movement, Reformist Alliance and the Reformists for Europe) formed a joint-list named "Democrats with Veltroni" (43.7%). The Democratic Ecologists of Ermete Realacci, together with Giovanna Melandri and Cesare Damiano, formed "Environment, Innovation and Labour" (8.1%). The Democrats, Laicists, Socialists, Say Left and the Labourites – Liberal Socialists presented a list named "To the Left" (7.7%). Local lists in support of Veltroni got 16.4%.
The Olivists, whose members were staunch supporters of Romano Prodi, divided in two camps. The largest one, including Arturo Parisi, endorsed Rosy Bindi, while a smaller one, including Paolo De Castro, endorsed Enrico Letta. Bindi benefited also from the support of Agazio Loiero's Southern Democratic Party, while Letta was endorsed by Lorenzo Dellai's Daisy Civic List, Renato Soru's Sardinia Project and Gianni Pittella's group of social democrats.
After the election, which saw the victory of Pier Luigi Bersani, the party's internal composition was as follows:
In the summer of 2010 Dario Franceschini, leader of Democratic Area (the largest minority faction), and Piero Fassino re-approached with Pier Luigi Bersani and joined the party majority. As a response, Walter Veltroni formed Democratic Movement to defend the "original spirit" of the PD. In doing this he was supported by 75 deputies: 33 Veltroniani, 35 Populars close to Giuseppe Fioroni and 7 former Rutelliani led by Paolo Gentiloni. Some pundits hinted that the Bersani-Franceschini pact was envisioned in order both to marginalise Veltroni and to reduce the influence of Massimo D'Alema, the party bigwig behind Bersani, whose 2009 bid was supported primarily by Dalemiani. Veltroni and D'Alema had been long-time rivals within the centre-left.
As of September the party's majority was composed of those who supported Bersani since the beginning (divided in five main factions: Bersaniani, Dalemiani, Lettiani, Bindiani and the party's left-wing) and Democratic Area of Franceschini and Fassino. Then, there were two minority coalitions: Veltroni's Democratic Movement (Veltroniani, Fioroni's Populars, ex-Rutelliani, Democratic Ecologists and a majority of Liberal PD members) and Change Italy of Ignazio Marino.
According to Corriere della Sera, in November 2011 the party was divided mainly in three ideological camps battling for its soul:
Since November 2011 similar differences surfaced in the party over Monti Cabinet: while the party's right-wing, especially Liberal PD, was enthusiastic in its support, Fassina and other leftists, especially those linked to trade unions, were critical. In February 2012 Fassina published a book in which he described his view as "neo-labourite humanism" and explained it in connection with Catholic social teaching, saying that his "neo-labourism" was designed to attract Catholic voters. Once again, his opposition to economic liberalism was strongly criticized by the party's right-wing as well as by Stefano Ceccanti, a leading Catholic in the party and supporter of Tony Blair's New Labour, who said that a leftist platform à la Fassina would never win back the Catholic vote in places like Veneto.
According to YouTrend, a website, 35% of the Democratic deputies and senators elected in the 2013 general election were Bersaniani, 23% members of Democratic Area (or Democratic Movement), 13% Renziani, 6% Lettiani, 4.5% Dalemiani, 4.5% Young Turks / Remake Italy, 2% Bindiani and 1.5% Civatiani.
As the party performed below expectations, more Democrats started to look at Renzi, who had been defeated by Bersani in the 2012 primary election to select the centre-left's candidate for Prime Minister. In early September, two leading centrists, Franceschini and Fioroni, leaders of Democratic Area and The Populars, endorsed Renzi. Also two former leaders of the Democrats of the Left, Veltroni and Fassino, decided to support Renzi, while a third, D'Alema, endorsed Gianni Cuperlo.
After the election, which saw the victory of Matteo Renzi, the party's internal composition was as follows:
In the run-up of the election, the factions' alignments were as follows:
A more complete list of PD's factions is available in the following table:
The party runs fifteen regions out of twenty and the cities of Milan, Bologna, Florence and Bari. It also takes part to the government of the region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, as well as several other cities, including Padua and Cagliari.
In the 2008 and 2013 general elections the PD obtained its best results in Tuscany (46.8% and 37.5%), Emilia-Romagna (45.7% and 37.0%), Umbria (44.4% and 32.1%), Marche (41.4% and 27.7%), Liguria (37.6% and 27.7%) and Lazio (36.8% and 25.7%). Democrats are generally stronger in the North than the South, with the sole exception of Basilicata (38.6% in 2008 and 25.7% in 2013), where the party has drawn most of its personnel from Christian Democracy (DC).
The 2014 European Parliament election gave a thumping 40.8% of the vote to the party, which was the first Italian party to get more than 40% of the vote in a nationwide election since DC won 42.4% of the vote in the 1958 general election. In 2014, as usual, the PD did better in Tuscany (56.6%), Emilia-Romagna (52.5%) and Umbria (49.2%), but made significant gains in Lombardy (40.3%, +19.0% from 2009), Veneto (37.5%, +17.2%) and the South.
The 2018 general election was a major defeat for the party, which was reduced to 18.7% (Tuscany 29.6%).
The electoral results of the PD in the 10 most populated regions of Italy are shown in the table below.
|2008 general||2009 European||2010 regional||2013 general||2014 European||2015 regional||2018 general||2020 regional|
|Lombardy||28.1||21.3||22.9||25.6||40.3||32.4[b] (2013)||21.1||22.3[c] (2018)|
|Sicily||25.4||21.9||18.8 (2008)||18.6||34.9||21.2[k] (2017)||11.5||-|
|Chamber of Deputies|
|Election year||# of
overall seats won
217 / 630
297 / 630
112 / 630
|Senate of the Republic|
|Election year||# of
overall seats won
118 / 315
112 / 315
54 / 315
|Election year||# of
overall seats won
21 / 72
31 / 73
|Region||Latest election||# of
overall seats won
|Aosta Valley||2018||3,436 (#9)||5.4||
0 / 35
27 / 50
16 / 80
|South Tyrol||2013||19,207 (#5)||6.7||
2 / 35
9 / 35
9 / 51
|Friuli-Venezia Giulia||2018||76,423 (#2)||18.1||
10 / 49
30 / 50
8 / 31
25 / 41
16 / 31
11 / 20
18 / 50
11 / 31
2 / 21
16 / 51
14 / 51
12 / 21
14 / 30
12 / 70
19 / 60
il Pd [...] continua a sostenere la tesi che la sua area di riferimento è la sinistra e il centro sinistra e non un “centro che guarda a sinistra” di degasperiana memoria.