The general question underlying this article is how much have parties changed in Italy in the transition from the First to the Second Republic? The disintegration of the Christian Democrats (DC) in the early 1990s created a large opening on the centre-right of the political spectrum, which was promptly occupied by Forza Italia (FI). A totally new party organisationally speaking, FI, with its centralisation, its personalisation and its charismatic leadership, marked a clear break with all that the DC had represented in terms of its unrestricted pluralism based on strong factions. However, the franchise model adopted by Berlusconi's party, characterised by the co-existence of unity of command at the top, and differentiated and quasi-autonomous bodies locally, may facilitate the convergence of the parties representing the various interests and outlooks on the centre-right in the new rassemblement party that is the PdL. Through the latter, and given the new systemic conditions, Italy may achieve a transformation in the nature of the centre from Christian Democratic to conservative, enabling it to integrate most of the political right as well.
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