by Valerio Vignoli* and Fabrizio Coticchia**
Despite the recent delays, the new Italian government is called to take a decision on military deployments abroad soon. Which operations to renew? Which to initiate? Which to terminate? While we know little about how the Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) positioned on this issue, a comprehensive analysis on the voting patterns in parliament of Lega Nord and all the other major parties between 1994 and 2016 is finally available.
Our article “Italian political parties and Military Operations: an Empirical Analysis on Voting Patterns”, which has been recently published (here the link) on Government and Opposition, focuses specifically on this issue, providing the first detailed dataset on parliamentary votes on missions in Italy.
Here below the abstract of the paper:
Since the end of the bipolar era, the military activism of several Western powers has raised questions about parliamentary control, fostering growing research and analyses on the features, drivers and consequences of the different kinds of oversight exercised by legislative assemblies. Within this scholarly debate, this article focuses on the under-studied case of Italy. How did Italian parties vote on military operations abroad in the post-Cold War era? In order to answer this question, the article presents the first detailed and comprehensive set of data on parliamentary votes over the deployment of the Italian armed forces in the post-Cold War era (i.e. from the beginning of the 1990s to the recent operation against ISIL). Thanks to this extensive new empirical material, the article assesses selected arguments developed by the literature on political parties and foreign policy, paving the way for further research.
What are the main findings of the paper?
First, in line with the existing literature, the paper confirms a rather solid bipartisan consensus between centre-left (e.g., Partito Democratico) and centre right (e.g., Forza Italia) parties on military operations. In contrast, it indicates much more volatility for parties at the extremes such as Lega Nord and Rifondazione Comunista, depending on their presence in the governing coalitions. Second, and relatedly, the dynamics of government–opposition are very relevant in the case of Italy. Finally, in line with the argument of a supposed ‘instrumentality’ of voting on Italian foreign and defence policy, the findings illustrate how main opposition parties, despite an overall consensus on the missions expressed several times in the parliament, aimed to defeat the government before the assembly, exploiting divisions in the majority coalitions during ‘crucial votes’, when the government had a slim margin of support. Third, the curvilinear model of partisan support for military operations seems to better illustrate the case of Italy than the ‘traditional left–right’ model. Finally, “the procedural features” seem to affect the behaviour of political parties towards the MOAs. In fact, opposition parties, when confronted with a ‘package’ of several missions to refund, tend to vote in favour even though they are against one of them.
Given these findings, what to expect regarding the next votes on troops deployments abroad? A never-ending bipartisan consensus on missions? Is there a possibility to see again the instrumental use of the votes by opposition parties, even if they (e.g., PD, Forza Italia) are the most vocal supporters of military missions abroad? We should wait and see. The road to a deal between the two coalition partners, Lega Nord and Movimento 5 Stelle, is apparently still long and bumpy. For sure, the delays in the legislative debates, paradoxically confirms the limited saliency most parties attribute to the issue of military operations in the public debate.
The paper is connected to a broader research agenda that focuses on parliamentary votes and military operations (here some further details if you are interested in…)
Valerio Vignoli is PhD candidate at NASP. His thesis is titled:“’At the Water’s Edge?’: Italian Political Parties and Military Operations Abroad”
Fabrizio Coticchia is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Genova.