The Italian Constitutional Court (ICC) presides over vital ganglia of democracy: the admissibility of abrogative referenda; the validity of electoral law; the resolution of conflicts among State’s powers. On the second point, in 2014 the ICC took arguably the most controversial decision of its recent history, inducing a shift from a majority-assuring system to an almost purely proportional one, which is the background of the current political situation. Concerning referenda, a long-standing case-law gives the ICC wide discretion in allowing popular consultations, often with powerful political effects. While most of these decisions are matter of a sharp debate, the general perception is that the ICC is an authoritative and not-politicized body. Nevertheless, Italy is a case in point that, however independent and well-meaning a constitutional tribunal may be, its action is not sufficient to guarantee a well-functioning democracy and insulate it against the risks of populism.
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