1953 Italian general election

Christian Democracy (Italy) Italian Liberal Party Italian Communist Party
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1953 Italian general election

← 1948 7 June 1953 1958 →

All 590 seats in the Chamber of Deputies
237 seats in the Senate
  Majority party Minority party Third party
  Alcide de Gasperi 2.jpg Palmiro Togliatti Official.jpg Pietro Nenni 2.jpg
Leader Alcide De Gasperi Palmiro Togliatti Pietro Nenni
Party Christian Democracy Communist Party Socialist Party
Leader since 1944 1938 1931
Seats won 263 C / 112 S 143 C / 52 S 75 C / 26 S
Seat change Decrease57 C / Decrease19 S Increase19 C / Increase20 S Increase30 C / Increase12 S
Popular vote 10,862,073 C
9,660,210 S
6,120,809 C
4,910,077 S
3,441,014 C
2,891,605 S
Percentage 40.1% (C)
39.8% (S)
22.6% (C)
20.2% (S)
12.7% (C)
11.9% (S)
Swing Decrease8.4% C
Decrease8.3% S
Increase0.6% C[1]
Increase0.3% S[1]
Increase3.7% C[1]
Increase3.0% S[1]

1953 Italian general election - Results.svg
Results of the election in the Chamber and Senate.

Prime Minister before election

Alcide De Gasperi
Christian Democracy

New Prime Minister

Alcide De Gasperi
Christian Democracy

General elections were held in Italy on Sunday 7 June 1953, to choose the Second Republican Parliament.[2] They were a test for leading centrist coalition ruled by Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi.

The Scam Law

The election was characterized by changes in the electoral law. Even if the general structure remained uncorrupted, the government introduced a superbonus of two thirds of seats in the House for the coalition which would obtain at-large the absolute majority of votes. The change was hugely opposed by the opposition parties as well as the smaller DC coalition partners, which had no realistic chances of success. The new law was called Scam Law by its detractors,[3] including some dissidents of minor government parties who founded special opposition groups to deny the artificial landslide to the Christian Democracy.

Historical background

In the 1950s Italy became a founding member of the NATO alliance (1949), a member of the United Nations (1955) and an ally of the United States, which helped to revive the Italian economy through the Marshall Plan. In the same years, Italy also became a founding member of the ECSC (1952) and of the European Economic Community (1957), later developed into the European Union. At the end of the 1950s an impressive economic growth was termed "Economic Miracle". Italian families used their newfound wealth to purchase consumer durables for the first time. Between 1958 and 1965, the percentage of families owning a television rose from 12% to 49%, washing machines from 3% to 23%, and fridges from 13% to 55%.

Christian Democracy's main support areas (sometimes known as "vote tanks") were the rural areas in South, Center and North-East Italy, whereas the industrial North-West had more left-leaning support because of the larger working class. An interesting exception were the "red regions" (Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria) where the Italian Communist Party has historically had a wide support. This is considered a consequence of the particular sharecropping ("mezzadria") farming contracts used in these regions.

The Holy See actively supported the Christian Democracy, judging it would be a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for the Communist party and excommunicating all its supporters. In practice, however, many Communists remained religious: Emilia was known to be an area where people were both religious and communists. Giovanni Guareschi wrote his novels about Don Camillo describing a village, Brescello, whose inhabitants are at the same time loyal to priest Camillo and communist mayor Peppone, who are fierce rivals.

In 1953, a Parliamentary Commission on poverty estimated that 24% of Italian families were either “destitute” or “in hardship,” 21% of dwellings were overcrowded, 52% of homes in the south had no running drinking water, and only 57% had a lavatory.[4] In the 1950s, several important reforms were launched: e.g. agrarian reform (legge Scelba), fiscal reform (legge Vanoni), and the country enjoyed a period of extraordinary economic development (miracolo economico, economic miracle). In this period of time, a massive population transfer, from the impoverished South to the booming industrial North, took place. This however exacerbated social contrasts, including between the old-established "worker aristocracy" and the new less qualified immigrants ("operaio-massa") of Southern origin. In addition, a wide gap between rich and poor continued to exist. By the end of the Sixties, it was estimated that 4 million Italians (out of a population of 54.5 million) were unemployed, underemployed, and casual labourers. As noted by the historian Paul Ginsborg, the affluent society to this section of the Italian population “might have meant a television set but precious little else.”

Parties and leaders

Party Ideology Leader
Christian Democracy (DC) Christian democracy Alcide De Gasperi
Italian Communist Party (PCI) Communism Palmiro Togliatti
Italian Socialist Party (PSI) Democratic socialism Pietro Nenni
Monarchist National Party (PNM) National conservatism Alfredo Covelli
Italian Social Movement (MSI) Neo-fascism Augusto De Marsanich
Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI) Social democracy Giuseppe Saragat
Italian Liberal Party (PLI) Conservative liberalism Bruno Villabruna
Italian Republican Party (PRI) Social liberalism Oronzo Reale


Seat distribution by constituency for the Chamber of Deputies (left) and Senate (right).

The complaint campaign of the oppositions against the Scam Law reached its goal. The Centrist coalition (DC, PSDI, PLI, PRI, SVP, PSAZ) won 49.9% of the national vote, coming just a few thousand votes short of the threshold for a two-thirds majority. Instead, the election resulted in an ordinary proportional distribution of the seats. Minor dissident parties resulted determinant for the final result, especially the short-lived National Democratic Alliance. Leading party Christian Democracy did not repeat the extraordinary result of five years before, which had been obtained under special conditions linked to the Cold War, and lost a lot of votes to the right wing, which included resurgent fascist politicians particularly in Southern Italy.

Technically, the government won the election, with a clear working majority of seats in both houses. But frustration at the failure to garner the expected supermajority caused big problems for the leading coalition. De Gasperi was forced to resign by the Parliament on August 2: the Trentin statesman consequently retired and died twelve months later. The legislature continued with weak governments, with minor parties refusing institutional responsibilities. Giuseppe Pella rose to power, but fell after five months only, following strong disputes about the status of the Free Territory of Trieste which Pella was claiming. Amintore Fanfani not receiving a vote of confidence, Mario Scelba and Antonio Segni followed with more traditional centrist coalitions supported by PSDI and PLI: under the administration of the first one, the problem of Trieste was closed ceding Koper to Yugoslavia. The parliamentary term was closed by the minority government chaired by Adone Zoli, finishing a legislature which hugely weakened the office of the Prime Minister, held by six different rulers.

Chamber of Deputies

Summary of the 18 April 1953 Chamber of Deputies election results
Italian Chamber of Deputies 1953.svg
Party Votes % Seats +/−
Christian Democracy (DC) 10,862,073 40.10 263 −41
Italian Communist Party (PCI) 6,120,809 22.60 143 +13
Italian Socialist Party (PSI) 3,441,014 12.70 75 +22
Monarchist National Party (PNM) 1,854,850 6.85 40 +26
Italian Social Movement (MSI) 1,582,154 5.84 29 +23
Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI) 1,222,957 4.51 19 −14
Italian Liberal Party (PLI) 815,929 3.01 13 −6
Italian Republican Party (PRI) 438,149 1.62 5 −4
Independent Socialist Unity (USI) 225,409 0.83 0 New
Popular Unity (UP) 171,099 0.63 0 New
South Tyrolean People's Party (SVP) 122,474 0.45 3 ±0
National Democratic Alliance (ADN) 120,685 0.45 0 New
Sardinian Action Party (PSd'Az) 27,231 0.10 0 −1
Others 82,886 0.31 0 ±0
Invalid/blank votes 1,318,778
Total 28,406,479 100 590 +16
Registered voters/turnout 30,272,236 93.84
Source: Ministry of the Interior
Popular vote

Senate of the Republic

Summary of the 18 April 1953 Senate of the Republic election results
Italian Senate 1953.svg
Party Votes % Seats +/−
Christian Democracy (DC) 9,660,210 39.76 112 −19
Italian Communist Party (PCI) 4,910,077 20.21 52 +6
Italian Socialist Party (PSI) 2,891,605 11.90 26 −15
Monarchist National Party (PNM) 1,581,128 6.51 14 +10
Italian Social Movement (MSI) 1,473,645 6.07 9 +8
Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI) 1,046,301 4.31 4 −4
Italian Liberal Party 695,816 2.86 3 −4
Italian Republican Party (PRI) 261,713 1.08 0 −4
Popular Unity (UP) 172,545 0.71 0 New
National Democratic Alliance (ADN) 165,845 0.68 1 New
South Tyrolean People's Party (SVP) 107,139 0.44 2 ±0
Others 1,330,253 5.48 14 ±0
Invalid/blank votes 1,173,850
Total 25,483,201 100 237 ±0
Registered voters/turnout 27,172,871 93.8
Source: Ministry of the Interior
Popular vote


  1. ^ a b c d Due to impossibility of direct confrontation cause the end of the political alliance which linked the Communists and the Socialists during the previous election of 1948, unofficial swing was calculated using the strength ratio (130:53) between the communist group and the socialist group in the House after the division.
  2. ^ Dieter Nohlen & Philip Stöver (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p1048 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  3. ^ Also its parliamentarian exam had a disruptive effect: "Among the iron pots of political forces that faced in the Cold War, Senate cracked as earthenware pot": Buonomo, Giampiero (2014). "Come il Senato si scoprì vaso di coccio". L'Ago e Il Filo.
  4. ^ Italy: Library of Nations: Italy, Time-Life Books, 1985