The 18 April 1948 Italian election: Seventy Years On

Apr 18, 2018 670

BY: Effie G. H. Pedaliu

The sound and fury unleashed by the populist onslaught in Italy’s recent general election on 4 March 2018 may obscure the seventieth anniversary of one of the country’s most significant, controversial and decisive general elections, that of 18 April 1948. The 1948 election was the first general election since Mussolini’s ‘march on Rome’ in 1922 and Italians were going to the ballot box not just to elect a government, but also to determine the political orientation of their country. The result would not only shape the future of Italy, but it was also considered to be critical to the survival of the West and the post WWII liberal democratic order.

Italians faced a straight choice: to vote either for Alcide de Gasperi’s Christian Democrats or Palmiro Toglatti’s and Pietro Nenni’s Popular Democratic Front in which the Italian Communist Party, the largest communist party outside the Soviet Union, was the dominant partner. A political slogan of the time encapsulated the dramatic and binary nature of the choice facing Italians: ‘o con cristo o contro cristo’ (either with Christ or against Christ).

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