Published 27th February, 2013
The Democratic Party was founded on 14th October 2007 as a merger of a number of left wing and centrist parties including The Union, Democrats of the Left (formerly the Italian Communist Party), Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy and left-wing elements of the Christian Democracy Party. The party describes itself as Centre-left and believes in Social Democracy, Progressivism and Christian Left.
The party can trace its history back much further than 2007, the main elements of it were involved in The Olive Tree coalition which won the 1996 general election and which saw Romano Prodi as prime minister. The Olive Tree had been around from 1995 and fought the 1996 and 2001 elections before becoming an integral part of The Union, but in each case it was an alliance of a number of centre-left parties; sometimes up to as many as fifteen parties were involved. It was a number of these parties that eventually decided to merge into the Democratic Party in 2007.
The Union, with The Olive Tree at its heart won the 2006 general election, taking 348 of the 630 seats in the Chamber of Deputies but two years later, in fresh elections, now the Democratic Party in alliance with Italy of Values lost to the People of Freedom (PdL).
When the Berlusconi government collapsed in late 2011 the Democratic Party agreed to support the appointment of a technocrat government led by Mario Monti. Its current leader is Pier Luigi Bersani and in the 2013 general election they fought the election in alliance with six other centre-left parties called Italy, Common Good (Italia. Bene Comune).
Bersani and the Democratic Party entered the 2013 general election in the lead by a wide margin, but the might of the Berlusconi media empire and a new anti-establishment force, the Five Stars Movement, conspired against them. In the end they took control, of the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies with 340 of the 630 seats, but failed to get a majority in the upper house or Senate, leading to uncertainty as to whether they could form a government and for how long.
The Democratic Party is a member of the European Parliament group Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats where they have 23 of the 73 national seats in the European Parliament.