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Democrats of the Left

Democrats of the Left
Democratici di Sinistra
Former Secretaries Massimo D'Alema
Walter Veltroni
Piero Fassino
President Massimo D'Alema (1998-2007)
Founded 13 February 1998
Dissolved 14 October 2007
Preceded by Democratic Party of the Left
Merged into Democratic Party
Headquarters Via Palermo 12, Rome
Membership 615,414[1] (2007)
Ideology Social democracy[2]
Democratic socialism
Political position Centre-left
National affiliation The Olive Tree (1998–2007)
The Union (2005–2007)
International affiliation Socialist International
European affiliation Party of European Socialists
European Parliament group Party of European Socialists
Politics of Italy
Political parties

The Democrats of the Left (Italian: Democratici di Sinistra, DS) was a social-democratic[3][4][5][6][7][8] political party in Italy. The largest party in The Olive Tree political and electoral coalition, on 14 October 2007 DS merged with Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy and a number of minor centre-left parties to form the Democratic Party. Its leaders were Piero Fassino, national secretary, and Massimo D'Alema, president.


  • History 1
    • Leadership of Piero Fassino 1.1
    • 2006 general election 1.2
    • Fourth national congress and split 1.3
  • Factions 2
  • Popular support 3
  • Electoral results 4
    • Italian Parliament 4.1
    • European Parliament 4.2
  • Symbols 5
  • Leadership 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The Democrats of the Left developed from the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), which in turn was a reshaping of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) into a democratic socialist party. Under the leadership of Massimo D'Alema, the party merged with minor like-minded others movements (Labour Federation, Social Christians, Republican Left, Unitarian Communists, Reformists for Europe and Democratic Federation), and took the name Democrats of the Left (DS), removing the hammer and sickle from its symbol and substituting it with the red rose of European social democracy as used by the Party of European Socialists.

Massimo D'Alema became Prime Minister of Italy in October 1998, the first former Communist to hold the post. D'Alema was replaced as the leader of DS by Walter Veltroni. During the party's first national congress in January 2000, Veltroni received the support of the 79.9% of delegates, while the left wing of the party, at the time led by three women (Anna Finocchiaro, Fulvia Bandoli and Pasqualina Napoletano), had the support of 20.1% of delegates.

Leadership of Piero Fassino

The last secretary of the party was Piero Fassino, elected with 61.8% of party members' votes during the second national congress in November 2001. Piero Fassino was the candidate of a mainstream Third Way tendency. The candidacy of Giovanni Berlinguer, endorsed by left-wingers, democratic socialists and the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) trade union, gained 34.1% of party members votes. The right wing of the party, led by Enrico Morando, received 4.1%.

Piero Fassino was re-elected during the third national congress, in February 2005 with 79.1% of party members' votes. No other candidates stood, but left-wing candidates ran for congressional delegates and received 14.6% of party members votes won by the DS Left-wing – Returning to win, 4.0% by the DS Left-wing for Socialism and 2.4% by the Ecologist Left.

A political placard of the Democrats of the Left.

2006 general election

In the 2006 general election, held on April 9 and April 10, 2006, the Democrats of the Left endorsed the candidacy of Romano Prodi as Prime Minister of Italy. DS presented their symbol for the Senate and ran under the Olive Tree symbol for the Italian Chamber of Deputies, together with Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy (DL) and the European Republicans Movement. The party achieved a 17.17% in the Senate (62 senators) and the Olive Tree reached a 31.20% in the Chamber (220 deputies), more than the sum of its components in the Senate. This, and the narrow margin gained on the centre-right House of Freedoms coalition, prompted a discussion on the party's future. As of 2006 the party leadership was committed to a future merger with DL, eventually creating the Democratic Party the following year.

Nine Ministers of the Giorgio Napolitano, elected on 10 May 2006, is also a former DS member (as usual, although not mandatory, he renounced his party affiliation before being sworn in, because the office he was going to assume is considered to be above party politics).

Fourth national congress and split

The fourth national congress was held from 19 to 21 April 2007. During local congresses, Piero Fassino and his motion named For the Democratic Party, backed by the majority of the leading members of the party, such as D'Alema, Pier Luigi Bersani and Antonio Bassolino, received the support of 75.6% of party members. The motion was clearly in support of the Democratic Party project.

The left-wing of Fabio Mussi, Cesare Salvi, Fulvia Bandoli and Valdo Spini (To the Left. For European Socialism), joint-group of members of DS Left-wing – Returning to win, DS Left-wing for Socialism, some affiliates to the Ecologist Left and most Labourites – Liberal Socialists scored 15.0%; this motion was instead opposed to the Democratic Party. All members supportive of this group later founded a new movement, Democratic Left, which aimed to unite the heterogeneous Italian left-wing, from direct descendents of the Italian Socialist Party to the euro-communist tendencies best represented in Italy by the Communist Refoundation Party.

A third motion, named For a New, Democratic and Socialist Party and signed by Gavino Angius, Mauro Zani and originally also by Giuseppe Caldarola took 9.3% of party members votes. This group, mainly composed of former supporters of D'Alema and Fassino (gathered in the new Socialists and Europeans faction), and some left-wingers and environmentalists, supported the creation of a new party only within the Party of European Socialists and opposed the proposal of the Democratic Party (perceived as a mere addition of DS and DL with no reference at all to socialism). Several of its members and supporters, including Angius, later decided to leave the party to join the Democratic Left movement, whereas several others, including Zani, preferred to stay within the Democrats of the Left.


Inside the party were several organised political tendency associations. Inside the party, there was often a somewhat simplistic distinction between reformists (riformisti) and radicals (radicali or massimalisti), indicating respectively the mainstream or the left-wing area, formerly known as Correntoni.

The core of the social-democratic party majority wasn't related to a specific tendency association, although several smaller movements, splits of former centrist or centre-left Italian parties, related to it. These were the Labourites – Liberal Socialists (Laburisti – Socialisti Liberali), Reformist Europe (Europa Riformista) and the Sicilian Reformist Movement (Movimento Riformista) all from the Italian Socialist Party, the Social Christians (Cristiani Sociali) from the left wing of Christian Democracy, the Republican Left (Sinistra Repubblicana) from the left wing of the Italian Republican Party and the Liberal Left (Sinistra Liberale) from the left wing of the Italian Liberal Party.

On the right, the Liberal association had a moderate Third Way or radical centre political agenda. This faction was included in the party majority in later years, while a dissident group left it, in opposition to the creation of the Democratic Party, and formed a new faction, named Socialists and Europeans.

Before the 2007 convention, the left-wing opposition was led by the DS Left-wing-Returning to win (Sinistra DS-Per tornare a vincere), a democratic socialist tendency, with other smaller groups including DS Left-wing for Socialism (Sinistra DS per il Socialismo), left-wing democratic socialists and the Ecologist Left (Sinistra Ecologista), leftist environmentalists. As most of their members left the party in refusal of the Democratic Party foundation, their subsequent composition and weight was unclear.

Several personalities formerly inside or close to the left wing of the party, such as Pietro Folena, Pietro Ingrao and Achille Occhetto approached or joined the Communist Refoundation Party which, from its sixth congress, held in January 2005, moved towards a more heterogeneous, non-sectarian and strongly pacifist variety of leftism.

Popular support

The electoral results of the Democrats of the Left (Democratic Party of the Left until 1998) in the 10 most populated regions of Italy are shown in the table below. The result for the 2006 general election refers to the election for the Senate (the DS contested the election for the Chamber of Deputies in a joint list with DL).

1994 general 1995 regional 1996 general 1999 European 2000 regional 2001 general 2004 European 2005 regional 2006 general
Piedmont 16.7 21.7 16.9 13.7 17.7 15.9 with Ulivo 20.1 16.9
Lombardy 13.0 16.5 15.1 12.9 with Ulivo 11.7 with Ulivo with Ulivo 12.4
Veneto 12.2 16.5 11.8 11.1 12.3 10.7 with Ulivo with Ulivo 11.5
Emilia-Romagna 36.6 43.0 35.7 32.8 36.2 28.8 with Ulivo with Ulivo 30.6
Tuscany 33.7 40.9 34.8 31.9 36.4 30.9 with Ulivo with Ulivo 29.8
Lazio 23.3 27.2 23.5 18.4 20.0 17.3 with Ulivo with Ulivo 19.2
Campania 19.7 19.5 20.0 13.8 14.2 14.3 with Ulivo 15.3 14.1
Apulia 19.9 22.1 22.1 14.1 15.7 12.9 with Ulivo 16.6 15.6
Calabria 22.2 22.2 21.0 16.4 14.3 17.9 with Ulivo 15.4 14.4
Sicily 16.5 14.1 (1996) 16.6 12.0 10.1 (2001) 10.3 with Ulivo 14.0 (2006) 11.4
ITALY 20.4 - 21.1 17.3 - 16.6 - - 17.2

Electoral results

Italian Parliament

Chamber of Deputies
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
2001 6,151,154 (#2) 16.6
137 / 630
Walter Veltroni
2006 with Ulivo (#1)
123 / 630
Piero Fassino
Senate of the Republic
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
2001 with Ulivo (#2)
64 / 315
Walter Veltroni
2006 5,977,347 (#2) 17.5
62 / 315
Piero Fassino

European Parliament

European Parliament
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1999 5,387,729 (#2) 17.3
15 / 87
Walter Veltroni
2004 with Ulivo (#1)
12 / 78
Piero Fassino




  1. ^ Corriere della Sera, 18 April 2007
  2. ^
  3. ^ André Krouwel (2012). Party Transformations in European Democracies. SUNY Press. p. 333.  
  4. ^ Marcus E. Ethridge; Howard Handelman (2009). Politics in a Changing World: A Comparative Introduction to Political Science. Cengage Learning. p. 157.  
  5. ^ Donald F. Busky (2002). Communism in History and Theory: The European Experience. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 57.  
  6. ^ Dimitri Almeida (2012). The Impact of European Integration on Political Parties: Beyond the Permissive Consensus. CRC Press. p. 71.  
  7. ^ Ari-Veikko Anttiroiko; Matti Mälkiä (2007). Encyclopedia of Digital Government. Idea Group Inc (IGI). p. 389.  
  8. ^ Steinar Stjernø (2009). Solidarity in Europe: The History of an Idea. Cambridge University Press. p. 276.  

External links

  • Official website
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