The Italian Government in Pandemic Times: Between Centralized Decision-Making and Coalitional Compromises


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Italy went through a severe health crisis, which put national political institutions and public services to the test. In response to this challenge, policy-makers implemented specific health policy measures as well as policies in other fields to contain the circulation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and to mitigate negative economic effects. In this context, conflicts between coalition parties and single cabinet members arose. Against this background, this article deals with the way in which the Italian political executive made its pandemic policy-related decisions during the pandemic. In particular, it aims to test the viability of existing theoretical models of coalition governance to account for actual cabinet decision-making. The work uses formal decrees (by the prime minister, by ministers, or by the cabinet as a whole), approved between February 2020 and February 2022, as proxies of coalition governance models. It answers the following questions: when do PMs centralize or decentralize decision-making? How do crises affect power delegation in cabinet?  Four hypotheses result from the integration of literature strands on presidentialization of politics, party behavior in coalitions, and crisis management. Findings show that centralized decision-making prevailed when the prime minister enjoyed greater party support and especially in the most acute phases of the pandemic. However, the ‘coalition compromise’ model of coalition governance was more common when the intra-coalition heterogeneity of policy preferences was higher. The article contributes to the debate about mechanisms of mutual party control within coalition governments and their determinants under the pressure of exogenous shocks.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20398573v9n1p65

Keywords: Cabinet government; Coalition governance; Ministerial Government; Prime ministerial government; Covid-19


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