Constitution of Italy
The Constitution of the Italian Republic was enacted by the Constituent Assembly
Constituent Assembly of Italy
The Italian Constituent Assembly was a parliamentary chamber which existed in Italy from 25 June 1946 until 31 January 1948...

 on 22 December 1947, with 453 votes in favour and 62 against. The text, which has since been amended 13 times, was promulgated in the extraordinary edition of Gazzetta Ufficiale
Gazzetta Ufficiale
The Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana is the official journal of record of the Italian government...

 No. 298 on 27 December 1947. The Constituent Assembly
Constituent Assembly of Italy
The Italian Constituent Assembly was a parliamentary chamber which existed in Italy from 25 June 1946 until 31 January 1948...

 was elected by universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

 on 2 June 1946, at the same time as a referendum on the abolition of the monarchy. The Constitution came into force on 1 January 1948, one century after the Statuto Albertino
Statuto Albertino
The Statuto Albertino or Albertine Statute was the constitution that King Charles Albert conceded to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia in Italy on 4 March 1848...

 had been enacted. Although the latter remained in force after Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

's March on Rome
March on Rome
The March on Rome was a march by which Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's National Fascist Party came to power in the Kingdom of Italy...

 in 1922, it had become devoid of substantive value.


The forces that enlivened debate in the Assembly fell into three groups, Christian democratic, Liberal
Liberalism and radicalism in Italy
- Background :The formation of political groups in the 19th century in divided Italy is based on personalities, like Camillo di Cavour and Giuseppe Mazzini. Both the Historical Right and the Historical Left were composed of monarchist liberals, while radicals organised themselves as the Radical...

 and left-wing. Because all were deeply anti-fascist, there was general agreement against an authoritarian constitution.
However, each group was concerned about its success in new elections after the promulgation of the Constitution, and fought to insert provisions reflecting their values; the result was that some aspects of the text (for example, concerning marriage and the family) refer to Roman Catholic-oriented natural law themes, whilst others (for example, concerning workers' rights) are more reminiscent of socialist and communist thinking. This has been repeatedly described as the constitutional compromise, and the parties representing the three ideologies that shaped the Constitution were referred to as part of the arco costituzionale (literally, "constitutional arch").


The Constitution is composed of 139 articles (four of which were later abrogated) and arranged into three main parts: Principi Fondamentali, the Fundamental Principles (articles 1–12); Part I concerning the Diritti e Doveri dei Cittadini, or Rights and Duties of Citizens (articles 13–54); and Part II the Ordinamento della Repubblica, or Organisation of the Republic (articles 55–139); followed by 18 Disposizioni transitorie e finali, the Transitory and Final Provisions.

Articles 13–28 are the Italian equivalent of a bill of rights
Bill of rights
A bill of rights is a list of the most important rights of the citizens of a country. The purpose of these bills is to protect those rights against infringement. The term "bill of rights" originates from England, where it referred to the Bill of Rights 1689. Bills of rights may be entrenched or...

 in common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 jurisdictions. Power is divided among the executive, the legislative and judicial branches; the Constitution establishes the balancing and interaction of these branches, rather than their rigid separation.

Whilst Article 8 establishes the liberty of all religions before the law, Article 7 recognises the special status given to the Catholic Church by the Lateran Treaty in 1929. That status was modified by a new agreement between church and state in 1984.

The Constitution previously forbade the male descendants of the former royal family, the House of Savoy
House of Savoy
The House of Savoy was formed in the early 11th century in the historical Savoy region. Through gradual expansion, it grew from ruling a small county in that region to eventually rule the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 until the end of World War II, king of Croatia and King of Armenia...

, from entering the territory of the Republic; however, this provision was repealed in 2002.

It is important to note that the Constitution primarily contains general principles; it is not possible to apply them directly. As with many written constitutions, only few articles are considered to be self-executing. The majority require enabling legislation, referred to as accomplishment of constitution. This process has taken decades and some contend that, due to various political considerations, it is still not complete.


In order to make it virtually impossible to replace with a dictatorial regime, it is difficult to modify the Constitution; to do so (under Article 138) requires two readings in each House of Parliament and, if the second of these are carried with a simple majority (i.e. 50%+1) rather than two-thirds, a referendum. Under Article 139, the republican form of government cannot be reviewed. When the Constituent Assembly drafted the Constitution, it made a deliberate choice in attributing to it a supra-legislative force, so that ordinary legislation could neither amend nor derogate from it. Legislative acts of parliament in conflict with the Constitution are subsequently annulled by the Constitutional Court
Constitutional Court of Italy
The Constitutional Court of Italy is a supreme court of Italy, the other being the Court of Cassation. Sometimes the name Consulta is used as a metonym for it, because its sessions are held in Palazzo della Consulta in Rome....


Three Parliamentary Commissions have been convened in 1983–1985, 1992–1994 and 1997–1998 respectively, with the task of preparing major revisions to the 1948 text (in particular Part II), but in each instance the necessary political consensus for change was lacking.

The text of the Constitution has been amended 14 times. Amendments have affected articles 48 (postal voting), 51 (women's participation), 56, 57 and 60 (composition and length of term of the Chamber of Deputies
Italian Chamber of Deputies
The Italian Chamber of Deputies is the lower house of the Parliament of Italy. It has 630 seats, a plurality of which is controlled presently by liberal-conservative party People of Freedom. Twelve deputies represent Italian citizens outside of Italy. Deputies meet in the Palazzo Montecitorio. A...

 and Senate of the Republic
Italian Senate
The Senate of the Republic is the upper house of the Italian Parliament. It was established in its current form on 8 May 1948, but previously existed during the Kingdom of Italy as Senato del Regno , itself a continuation of the Senato Subalpino of Sardinia-Piedmont established on 8 May 1848...

); 68 (indemnity and immunity of members of Parliament); 79 (amnesties and pardons); 88 (dissolution of the Houses of Parliament); 96 (impeachment); 114 to 132 (Regions, Provinces and Municipalities in its entirety); 134 and 135 (composition and length of term of the Constitutional Court). In 1967 articles 10 and 26 were integrated by a constitutional provision which established that their last paragraphs (which forbid the extradition of a foreigner for political offences) do not apply in case of crimes of genocide.

Four amendments were passed during the thirteenth legislature (1996–2001), these concerned parliamentary representation of Italians living abroad; the devolution of powers to the Regions; the direct election of Regional Presidents; and guarantees of fair trials in courts. A constitutional law and one amendment were also passed in the fourteenth legislature (2001–2006), namely, the repealing of disposition XIII insofar as it limited the civil rights of the male descendants of the House of Savoy; and a new provision intended to encourage women's participation in politics. Further amendments are being debated, but for the time being 61.32% of those voting in the 25–26 June 2006 referendum rejected a major Reform Bill approved by both Houses on 17 November 2005 and the attempt to revise Part II appears to have been abandoned or at least postponed indefinitely after almost 25 years. Nonetheless, in 2007, the constitution was amended making capital punishment
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

 illegal in all cases (before this the Constitution prohibited the death penalty except "in the cases provided for by military laws in case of war;" however, no one had been sentenced to death since 1947 and the penalty was abolished from military law in 1994).

See also

  • Birth of the Italian Republic
    Birth of the Italian Republic
    The Italian constitutional referendum which officially took place on 2 June 1946, is a key event of Italian contemporary history. Until 1946, Italy was a kingdom ruled by the House of Savoy, kings of Italy since the Risorgimento and previously rulers of Savoy...

  • Treaty of Peace with Italy, 1947
  • Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe
    Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe
    The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe , , was an unratified international treaty intended to create a consolidated constitution for the European Union...

  • Rule according to higher law
    Rule according to higher law
    The rule according to a higher law means that no written law may be enforced by the government unless it conforms with certain unwritten, universal principles of fairness, morality, and justice...

External links

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