Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Italy

Throughout the article “Corruption and anti-corruption: The political defeat of ‘Clean Hands’ in Italy, West European Politics,” as well as many others it is quite clear that corruption is still rampant throughout the Italian political system. Even though ‘Clean Hands’ helped rid Italy of the first republic, the second republic was still just as corrupt. The ‘Clean Hands’ investigations that played out in the 1990s had some minor effects, they still were unable to completely stop or even hinder the corruption in Italy. After these investigations, the tensions between the judiciary and the political class tightened and the reforms that were made were barely sufficient to assisting in improving the corruption that plagued and continues to plague Italy. Even with these “improvements” Italy still had three prime ministers that were corrupt. Giulio Andreotti was involved with the mafia, Bettino Craxi was involved with corruption, and Silvio Berlusconi was involved with scandals. “The presence of widespread corruption in the political and administrative system became a major political issue in Italy during the 1990s, but a few years after the beginning of mani pulite (“clean hands”) inquiries he question faded from the agenda of Italian politics.”1 Due to the lack of judiciary autonomy, the political class has been able to create corruption in almost all aspects of Italian life. These signs of corruption are still visible today in the Italian government through the financing of politicians and their parties, controls on businesses, and the lack of arrests and charges in affect, which has a direct effect on how the population perceives and interacts with the government in today’s day and age.

The political parties within Italy have complete control over their financing due to their links with the businesses within the country. All donations are given within the linked friendships and connections made, which are beneficial for both groups involved. The north and south also have very conflicting political views due to their economic states. Although there are constraints on election expenditure, there are no limits on donor contributions to parties or candidates. This means that a donor can give political parties or candidates any amount of money they feel necessary without any government oversight. Donor identities are only revealed for contributions above €50,000, and even these loose regulations are not adequately enforced.2 Beyond this, the government does not report political party expenditures. This gives the political parties and the prime candidates free reign with the donations. In direct correlation to this issue is the fact that the Italian government refuses to make these donations transparent to the public, therefore giving the citizens even more a reason to distrust their government.3These contributions are also corrupt because the donor is able to incorporate their ideology into the Italian policy in turn for supporting the political party or candidate financially.

This corruption extended even further in May of 2001. One of the most corrupt Italian leaders, Silvio Berlusconi enforced multiple laws that endorsed his financial spending. After the first republic fell and the protection of his private tv empire was in trouble, he created his own political party with faux polls to gain support. Once his position in parliament was intact he incorporated his employees into high government position. Therefore he influenced laws that reduced the sentence on false accounting in businesses and the statute of limitations. Berlusconi even went as far as to decriminalize specific forms of false accounting.4 Due to these laws he was able to set the tone that prime ministers and political parties were able to get their prosecutions put on hold and eventually dissolved. The Berlusconi example epitomizes the uncontrolled corruption in the Italian political systems. Corruption does not just entail the actual act of donations but it also goes as far as to lessen the sentence if prosecuted. These examples explain why in 2010, Italians found political parties to be the most corrupt aspect of their country.5

Another serious characteristic of corruption is the political party’s control over businesses. A significant way in which political parties control society is through the utilization of different businesses. Italian political parties also exploited their power by modeling the law in order to profit certain businesses they owned. As time progressed more and more entrepreneurs started involving themselves with political parties. This directly involved the Italian government policies with large businesses in the country. Once again a prime example of an entrepreneur is Silvio Berlusconi. In 1994 Berlusconi, the head of a business empire, announced entry into politics at the head of Forza Italia. Berlusconi enacted a few faux efforts to make it seem as though he was trying to control the link between political parties and companies. While he was in office he told his people to create an outline of a law that said people who are within the government cannot control public bodies or control many companies. No surprise, this law did not pass and in turn the existing vulnerable norms were in tact.6

At times political parties utilize their power to enhance the sales of their candidates businesses. Also, there is a parallel structure in which the political parties collect bribes in order from companies that are undergoing fiscal status.7There has been multiple times in which Silvio Berlusconi owned these companies. Berlusconi had been known to take advantage of his political status by creating laws that funneled money into his companies rather than others in turn destroying competition within the market place.

The Italian political system furthers its corruption even more so by creating lesser sentences and making it more difficult to implement arrests. This is something that still continues even in today’s day and age. This corruption is exemplified through Italy’s Court of Auditors estimation, which states that corruption costs Italy $60 billion a year but only $293 million is recovered. The reason why corruption is able to run so rampant throughout Italy is because of the shortened Statute of Limitations.8 This type of statute of limitations allows many criminal cases to expire, which allows various political parties and candidates such as Berlusconi to get away with many political crimes.9

“Political sanctions against politicians involved in corruption scandals, which had traditionally been quite mild (Della Porta, 1992), have become virtually non-existent in the last decade, as epitomized by the case of Prime Minister Berlusconi who, as centre-right leader, won the elections of 2001 and 2008 despite being under investigation in several corruption cases and inquiries.”10 This corruption is represented in a 2011 report says that the statute of limitations is the biggest reason as to why political figures and parties are able to get away with corruption.11 Another huge aspect of corruption within Italy is that the political parties can control the outcome of the laws within the country, which directly helps them get away with their corrupt actions. For example, laws have been passed that provide amnesty for funds hidden abroad to be returned to Italy with only a minimal level of taxation. The political parties have also kept certain laws from passing that could hinder their corrupt actions. For example, in 1994, Judge Antonio Di Pietro presented some ‘draft laws’ to reform the way in which corruption was handled in Italy. “These proposals sought to accentuate the obvious conflict of interest between corruptor and corrupted, with the harshening of penalty; the confiscation of the profits of corruption; and the non-punishment of the corrupted if the corrupt exchange was revealed to magistrates within three months of it taking place”.12 However, these laws were never passed due to the opposition of members of the political class who stated that it was an unacceptable entrust into their domain.

This widespread corruption through Italy has placed a lot of stress and unhappiness throughout country. The politicians have utilized their high governmental positions to improve their status and financial stand within the country. The citizens of Italy are at a point in which they are so sick of corrupt politicians that they are prepared to vote anyone who is not self-serving into government regardless of their background. These feelings have created a new wave of politicians to be elected into playing field, such as the five star movement lead by Beppo Grillo. “Skepticism regarding the effectiveness of austerity- and of politicians in general- manifested in Beppo Grillo’s Five Start Movement.”13 This movement is openly critical of the EU, and antiestablishment. Grillo utilizes social media to create a legion of followers.14

The population being utterly sick of corruption is exemplified through their support of Beppe Grillo who is originally an Italian comedian and social critic. This “broadly populist, antiestablishment platform” was solely created because of the citizen’s hatred of corruption.15 The citizens of Italy putting their political faith in a famed comedian demonstrates how they have been pushed to the edge due to politicians who exploit their positions. Beyond this, Beppe Grillo could be a grave threat to the Italy as a country. M5S won a quarter of the vote last year in parliament after originally being written off as a protest movement. The issue is that Mr. Grillo is causing a lot of conflict within parliament due to his autocratic leadership and refusal to co-operate with other parties. Beppi and his co founder Gianroberto Caleggio are very aggressive and have been compared to Stalin and Pol Pot. Currently Mr.Grillo is trying to give Mr. Renzi, the prime minister of Italy, a run for his money; however Renzi hopes that he will be able to continue with his reform agenda and bring Italy back into the light.17 The corruption that has plagued Italy from the beginning of its democracy has led the population to lose all hope. The civilians are so wrought with aggravation from corrupted politicians that they are willing to vote autocratic comedians into parliament. This is a prime example as to what corruption has forced the population to believe what is “best” for their country.

By and large these acts of corruption still lingers within Italy today. The political parties have run havoc to the system and created a lasting effect on the country. Politicians have repeatedly exploited their positions to increase their power and financial status directly effecting how the population views the government and politicians today. Within Italy, their needs to be a legitimate anti corruption authority, effective codes of conduct for members of parliament and the executive in order to improve integrity, and a longer statute of limits. If Italy were to possibly take these lengths to improve their corrupt political system and backwards politicians, then perhaps it would change the corruption that still is rampant in Italy today.

1 Vanucci, Alberto: The Controversial Legacy of ‘Mani Pulite’: A Critical Analysis of Italian Corruption and Anti-Corruption Policies, 1:2, 234

2 “Corruption By Country/Territory,” Transparency International, accessed September 10,2014,

3 “Corruption by Country”

4 Donatella Della Porta & Alberto Vannucci (translated by Alex Wilson) (2007): “Corruption and anti-corruption: The political defeat of ‘Clean Hands’ in Italy, West European Politics,” 30:4, 839.

5 “Corruption by Country”

6 Donatella Della Porta & Alberto Vannucci: “Corruption and anti-corruption,” 838.

7 Donatella Della Porta & Alberto Vannucci: “Corruption and anti-corruption,” 837.

8 “Corruption by Country”

9 “Corruption by Country”

10 Vanucci, Alberto. “The Controversial Legacy of ‘Mani Pulite’: A Critical Analysis of Italian Corruption and Anti-Corruption Policies,” Bulletin of Italian Politics(2009): 234, accessed September 12, 2014.

11 “Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament,” European Commission, accessed September 10, 2014,

12 Donatella Della Porta & Alberto Vannucci: “Corruption and anti-corruption,” 838.

13 “Five Star Movement,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed September 15, 2014,

14 “Five Star Movement”

15 “Five Stars Back,” The Economist, accessed September 15, 2014,

17 Terry, Chris. “Five Star Movement,” Demosoc Europe (2014): 1-2, accessed September 14, 2014.


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