The Radical Party (Italian: Partito Radicale, PR) was a liberal[5] and libertarian[6] political party in Italy.

Radical Party
Partito Radicale
LeaderMarco Pannella
Founded11 December 1955; 68 years ago (1955-12-11)
Dissolved1 January 1989 (1989-01-01)
Split fromItalian Liberal Party
Succeeded byAntiprohibitionists on Drugs
Transnational Radical Party
HeadquartersVia di Torre Argentina 76 00186 Rome
NewspaperIl Mondo
Notizie Radicali
Membership (1958)11,645[3]
Political positionCentre to centre-left[4]
European affiliationCoordination of European Green and Radical Parties/European Green Coordination
European Parliament groupTechnical Group of Independents
Green Group
Colours  Orange

For decades, inspired by 19th-century classical radicalism, the Radical Party was a bastion of anti-clericalism, civil libertarianism, feminism, liberalism and radicalism in Italy as well as environmentalism.[7] The party proposed itself as the strongest opposition to the Italian political establishment, seen as corrupt and conservative. Although it never reached high shares of vote and never participated in government, the party had close relations with the other parties of the Italian left—from the Republicans and the Socialists to the Communists and Proletarian Democracy—and opened its ranks also to members of other parties through dual membership.

The party's longtime leader was Marco Pannella (1930–2016), who served as a member of the Chamber of Deputies (1976–1994) and the European Parliament (1979–2009), leading the party in most of the elections it contested.

In 1989, the PR was transformed into the Transnational Radical Party, a non-governmental organisation tasked with defending liberal and left-libertarian values. During the 1990s, the Radicals had formed a succession of electoral lists (notably including the Pannella List and Bonino List), without having a structured party and sometimes dividing themselves between competing lists. The latest incarnation of the party is the Italian Radicals, founded in 2001, former section of Transnational Radical Party.


Marco Pannella campaigning for the divorce referendum in 1974

The PR was founded in 1955 by the left wing of the Italian Liberal Party as the ideal continuation of the historical Radical Party, active from 1877 to 1925, emphasising liberal and secular issues such as separation of church and state and the full implementation of the Constitution. Leading members of the new party included Bruno Villabruna, Mario Pannunzio, Ernesto Rossi, Leo Valiani, Guido Calogero, Giovanni Ferrara, Paolo Ungari, Eugenio Scalfari and Marco Pannella.

Following a leadership crisis in 1963, most party members left the PR and joined the Italian Socialist Party or the Italian Republican Party; the remaining members, under the leadership of Pannella and Gianfranco Spadaccia took control of the party, which abandoned its original social-liberal views and adopted a strong left-libertarian position. The "new" PR came to political success in the 1976 general election, when it entered Parliament with four deputies: Pannella, Emma Bonino, Adele Faccio and Mauro Mellini. In the 1979 general election, the party won 3.5% of the vote and elected 18 deputies and two senators, its best result ever and by far the largest gain of any party in the Chamber of Deputies.[8] The relative success of the party was a consequence of the new line impressed by Pannella who moved the party's focus to issues like divorce and abortion, also by winning three referendums on those issues in 1974 and 1981.[9] In 1979, following the first European Parliament direct election, the PR was involved with Coordination of European Green and Radical Parties (CEGRP) and its unsuccessful efforts to create a single pan-European platform for green and radical politics.[10]

From 1976, the PR used the fist and rose emblem created by the French Socialist Party and later used by the Socialist International, although they were not ideologically close: Pannella had managed to obtain the permission because the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) lacked internal support to remove its traditional symbols, which included the Marxist hammer and sickle. In 1980, it decided to add a thick, diagonal black armband as a sign of mourning to its logo to pay homage to the part of humanity which was victim of hunger and war, reflecting its internationalist turn.[1][2]

In the 1980s, the party focused more on international and European issues. Affiliated to the Coordination of European Green and Radical Parties/European Green Coordination, Pannella was a member of the European Parliament since 1979 and led the party into new battles against hunger and in favour of further European integration. The party European affiliation were the Technical Group of Independents (1979–1984), Non-Inscrits (1984–1989) and Green Group. In 1989, the party was transformed into the Transnational Radical Party, a non-governmental organisation working at the United Nations and coordinating the efforts of several national parties and groupings mainly in support of human rights.

The Radicals continued to participate in elections through the Antiprohibitionists on Drugs list, the Rainbow Greens, the Pannella List, the Bonino List and the Bonino-Pannella List. In 2001 they re-organised themselves as a party with the Italian Radicals and Bonino served in two governments (Prodi II – 2006–2008 and Letta – 2013–2014). Pannella died after a long illness in 2016.



The PR gave expression to the transformation of Italian society towards more liberal behaviour and ideas in the post-war period. An anti-clerical party,[11][12] it placed itself within the libertarian left, often working for the unity of all the parties of the Italian left and proposing the adoption of an American-style electoral system based on first-past-the-post voting and the transformation of Italian institutions toward a presidential system, but also often being rejected by certain areas of the left itself, especially those linked with the Italian Communist Party, due to the Radicals' strong support of anti-communism, their economic liberalism, and their belief in social, religious, political, economic, and sexual freedoms.[12] The party was also known for its strong belief in direct democracy and especially for its promotion of referendums.



In the 1960s, the PR launched the Italian League for Divorce (Lega Italiana per il Divorzio, LID), which succeeded in marshalling together the secular parties into a unified political alliance and getting the law on divorce approved. During the 1970s, the PR helped launch the Women's Liberation Movement[13] (Movimento di Liberazione della Donna, MLD) by supporting the activities of the Italian Centre for Sterilisation and Abortion (Centro Italiano Sterilizzazioni e Aborti, CISA) and by giving its support to the Italian Revolutionary Homosexual United Front (Fronte Unitario Omosessuale Rivoluzionario Italiano, FUORI), one of the first Italian homosexual associations. All the aforementioned groups, as well as many others, were part of a Radical movement that was organised as a federation of single-issue associations rather than a united party.

The Italian League for Divorce developed a broad following with the 1974 referendum to repeal the Divorce Law which had been passed three years prior. The referendum was initiated by Gabrio Lombardi with the support of the Christian Church as a form of reactionary opposition to legal divorce.[14] The campaign for a no vote, in opposition to the Christian Democrats, was mostly led by unofficial party leader Marco Pannella, who was a fierce champion for the rights of woman.[15] This led to further connections with left-wing groups within Italy at the time such as the Italian Socialist Party and the Italian Communist Party. Because of the enormous campaigning effort done by Pannella, the divorce referendum resulted in around 60% of citizens voting in favour of protecting divorce laws, and this was considered to be largely to the credit of Radical Party, which emboldened the LID.[16]

The PR found its first connections to Fuori! in the 1970s when Angelo Pezzana, a member of the Radical Party and one of the founders of the Italian Revolutionary Homosexual United Front, had attempted to further politicise the association and connect it with the party.[17] In 1974, at the 14th congress of the Radical Party, Fuori! was officially federated as a part of the Radical Party, resulting in the dissatisfaction and withdrawal of some Fuori! members, such as Mario Mieli.[18] By the 15th congress, which took place in 1976, Fuori! had announced a list of candidates to run for positions within the party, thus marking the first time in which Italy had openly homosexual citizens run as candidates within a party elections, and by 1979, Angelo Pezzana became a member of the Italian parliament.[19] Pezzana was in office for less than a month before retirement, but continued to write on his experiences on the advancement of Italian homosexual rights, as facilitated by the Radical Party.[20]

Considered an early example of a political party placing importance on environmentalist issues, from 1972 onwards the PR also formed environmental organisations, including the Friends of the Earth's Italian chapter, the League Against Vivisection and League Against Hunting.[21]

Emma Bonino with Italian President Sandro Pertini in 1985

The PR never gained massive support in elections, due to its loose organisation and eclectic profile. Additionally, the party did not file candidates for all the elections and sometimes even supported abstention from voting. The Radicals' strongest showing was in the 1979 general election, when it obtained 3.5% of the vote and 18 deputies.

The PR did better in the North (especially in Piedmont) and in large cities (Rome, Milan, Turin and Naples) than in the South and in rural areas.[22]

Electoral results


Italian Parliament

Chamber of Deputies
Election year Votes % Seats +/– Leader
1958 405,574 (9th) 1.37
6 / 596
1963 Did not run
0 / 630
1968 1,540 (26th) 0.00
0 / 630
1972 Did not run
0 / 630
1976 394,212 (9th) 1.07
4 / 630
1979 1,264,870 (6th) 3.45
18 / 630
1983 809,810 (8th) 2.19
11 / 630
1987 987,720 (7th) 2.56
13 / 630
Senate of the Republic
Election year Votes % Seats +/– Leader
1958 363,462 (9th) 1.39
0 / 246
1963 Did not run
0 / 315
1968 Did not run
0 / 315
1972 Did not run
0 / 315
1976 265,947 (9th) 0.85
0 / 315
1979 413,444 (6th) 1.32
2 / 315
1983 548,229 (8th) 1.76
1 / 315
1987 572,461 (6th) 1.77
3 / 315

European Parliament

European Parliament
Election year Votes % Seats +/– Leader
1979 1,285,065 (6th) 3.67
3 / 81
1984 1,199,876 (7th) 3.67
3 / 81
1989 430,150 (11th) 1.24
1 / 81




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