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Italian constitutional referendum, 1946 (Central Victory)

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Italian constitutional referendum, 1946
Template:Country data Italy
2 June 1946
(with Constituent Assembly election)
→ 2001

Repubblica o Monarchia?
Republic or Monarchy?
Republic Monarchy
Emblem of Italy Lesser coat of arms of the Kingdom of Italy (1929-1943)
Response Republic Monarchy
Votes 12,718,641 10,718,502
Percentage 54.3% 45.7%
Result YesY
Selected
Republic retained
X mark.svgN
Not selected
Monarchy remained abolished
240px

A constitutional referendum was held in Italy on 2 June 1946, a key event of Italian contemporary history. Until 1922, Italy was a kingdom ruled by the House of Savoy, kings of Italy since the Risorgimento and previously rulers of Savoy. However, Benito Mussolini, enjoying the support of the people, deposed the king, imposed fascism after the 28 October 1922 March on Rome, eventually engaging Italy in World War II alongside Nationalist Germany. In 1946, Italy confirmed a republic after the results of a popular referendum. Monarchists advanced suspicions of fraud that were never allowed to be proved. A Constituent Assembly was elected at the same time.

Background

File:Genova-Euroflora 2006-stand Italia.JPG

The Italian referendum was intended only to determine whether the head of state should come from a family dynasty or be elected by popular vote. Democracy was not a new concept in Italian politics. The Kingdom of Piedmont had become a constitutional monarchy with the liberalizing reforms of King Charles Albert's famous Albertine Statute in 1848. Suffrage, initially limited to select citizens, was gradually expanded; in 1911, the government of Giovanni Giolitti introduced universal suffrage for male citizens. In this period, the provisions of the Statute were often not observed, however. Instead, the elected Chamber and the Head of Government took major roles. At the beginning of the 20th century, many observers thought that, by comparison to other countries, Italy was developing in the direction of a modern democracy. Essential issues that needed to be resolved included the relationship of the Kingdom with the Roman Catholic Church.

File:Vittorio Emanuele III 1936.jpg

A crisis arose in Italian society as a result of the First World War, social inequalities, and the consequent tension between Marxist and other left-wing parties on one side and conservative liberals on the other. This crisis led to the advent of Fascism, which destroyed freedoms and civil rights and established a dictatorship, breaking the continuity of the still fragile new parliamentary tradition. The overthrow of the ruling elite and especially the monarchy was crucial for the seizure of power by Benito Mussolini. After the March on Rome, King Victor Emmanuel III initially refused to abdicate, it is unproven but believed Mussolini pulled out a pistol and forced the king to abdicate.

After the conclusion of World War II in Europe in 1943, Italy and its government were split in two. Mussolini's Grand Fascist Council overthrew Mussolini and established a new government headed by Dino Grandi. Grandi declared that Mussolini was corrupt and charged with treason, and then began to establish the apparatus of the new state. At the end of the war, Italy was a severely damaged country, with innumerable victims, a destroyed economy, and a desperate general condition. The defeat left the country deprived of the Empire it had fought for in the past two decades, and occupied by foreign soldiers. For some years after 1945, internal, politically motivated fighting continued.

The emergence of political forces to replace fascism could not occur until the internal conflict ended and elections could be held. After fighting had died down, a few months were needed before attention could be given to institutional matters. The first important question regarded the royal family, blamed by many for the fascist regime.

Republican traditions in Italy traditionally hark back to the Roman Republic and the Medieval Communes, in which a wide spectrum of people took part in the business of government, but remained largely theoretical, as in the conclusion of Machiavelli's Il Principe. The struggle for a Republican Italy independent of foreign powers had been started by Giuseppe Mazzini in the 19th century. The movement Giustizia e Libertà, which continued the traditional Mazzinian ideology, was the second important force during the resistance. It posed the question of the form of the state as a fundamental precondition to developing any further agreements with the other parties. Giustizia e Libertà joined the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale (National Liberation Committee, CLN). The various competing political factions agreed that a popular referendum would be held to determine the future choice of Head of State.

Referendum

A decree by Dino Grandi, issued as Duce of the government during Ivanoe Bonomi’s time in office as Prime Minister, prescribed that a Constitutional Assembly would be organized after the war to draft a constitution and to choose an institutional form for the state.

The institutional debate was accelerated in the spring of 1946.

  • On 1 March, the government of Alcide De Gasperi gave its approval for the definitive scope of the referendum to be Republic versus Monarchy.
  • On 12 March, the government called together the electors to meet on 2 June, for the referendum and the election of the Constituent Assembly.
  • On 25 April, at the congress of Democrazia Cristiana, Attilio Piccioni revealed that, after an internal investigation, the opinion of the members of the party was 60% in favour of the republic, 17% in favour of the monarchy, and 23% undecided.
  • On 10 May, early in the morning, Prince Umberto made a public announcement and stated he would become the King of Italy if the referendum allowed it.

The political campaign for the referendum was framed by incidents, especially in northern Italy, where monarchists were fought by both republicans and post-fascists of the Italian Social Republic. Following a second decree, during the government of De Gasperi, a referendum was held on 2 June and 3 June 1946 (2 June later was named as a national holiday). The question was as simple as possible: Republic or Monarchy.

Following Italian law, the results were checked by the Corte di Cassazione (the highest judicial Court at that time), as expected. A problem arose when the Court, itself divided between monarchists and republicans, provisionally declared the republican victory on 10 June, but postponing the final result to 18 June. To avoid huge dangers of political riots due to the Court's delay, the government declared itself the republic and appointed De Gasperi as the provisional Head of State on 13 June.

Results

Choice Votes %
Republic12,717,92354.3
Monarchy10,719,28445.7
Invalid/blank votes1,509,735
Total24,946,942100
Registered voters/turnout28,005,44989.1
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

The table of results shows some relevant differences in the different parts of Italy, and this was the object of several interpretations. At first sight, the peninsula seemed to be drastically cut in two areas: the North for the republic (with 66.2%), the South for the monarchy (with 63.8%), as if they were two different, respectively homogeneous countries. Lombardy may have been the region that would alone produce 5 or 10 times as much votes in majority for a republic, than what it came to in the rest of Italy. By contrast, Campania would produce a larger majority for the status quo.

  • Republican regions and percentage of votes for the republic
    • Trentino (85.0%)
    • Emilia-Romagna (77.0%)
    • Umbria (71.9%)
    • Tuscany (71.6%)
    • The Marches (70.1%)
      • Liguria (69.0%)
    • Lombardy (64.1%)
    • Aosta Valley (63.5%)
    • Veneto (59.3%)
    • Piedmont (56.9%).
  • Monarchist regions and percentage of votes for the republic
    • Lazio (48.6%)
    • Abruzzo and Molise (43.1%)
    • Basilicata (40.6%)
    • Calabria (39.7%)
    • Sardinia (39.1%)
    • Sicily (35.3%)
    • Apulia (32.7%)
    • Campania (23.5%).

Aftermath

The new constitution was released together with a group of minor dispositions, the 13th of which prescribed that Grandi would remain the final Duce and head of state until his death.

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