Italian Radicals (Radicali Italiani) is an Italian political party which describes itself as a liberale, liberista e libertario political movement (liberista means economic liberal, libertarian in the American sense; libertario, here, denotes a form of social liberalism concerning moral issues, with some ideological connection with historical left-libertarianism).
It was founded on 14 July 2001, and ever since then the party's secretary has been Daniele Capezzone, replaced by Rita Bernardini in 2006. The party intends to be Italy's national incarnation of the Transnational Radical Party. That is the continuation of the Radical Party founded in 1955 by the left-wing of the Italian Liberal Party and re-launched in the Sixties by Marco Pannella.
The Radical Party having become a transnational NGO working at the UN level, which by statute does not participate in national political elections, its Italian members organized themselves into the Pannella List (Lista Pannella) between 1991 and 1999 and into the Bonino List (Lista Bonino) until 2001, when they re-establshed themselves as a party, the Italian Radicals (Radicali Italiani).
The twisted relationship between Radicals and Berlusconi, whose allies included social-conservative groups opposed to the Radicals, soon ended up, although never stopping Radicals from being vocally critical of the policies supported by the left. As a result, since 1996 Radicals have not been part of any major coalition. In the 1999 European Parliament election, the Bonino List won 8.7% of the vote, but Radicals were not able to convert that success into more influence in the political arena. From 2001 to 2006 Radicals were not even represented in Parliament, while for the five years before they had only a Senator.
In 2001, after a crushing defeat at the general election (only 2.3% of the votes and no MPs elected), the Radicals re-organized themselves as the "Italian Radicals" and elected the young Daniele Capezzone as secretary. This was a big shift from the electoral lists formed by Radicals since 1989, when they decided to transform their party into the Transnational Radical Party.
During the run-up to the 2005 regional election, the Italian Radicals took the unprecedented step of asking at the same time to join both the centre-right House of Freedoms and the centre-left The Union, regardless of their respective political platforms. The request was turned down by both coalitions.
In the election the list scored only 2.6%, much less than the electoral sum of the two parties before the alliace (Radicals alone took 2.3% in the 2004 European Parliament election). It seemed that the Radicals lost voters in their strongholds in the North to Forza Italia, while the Socialists lost ground in the South, where they are more popular, to The Olive Tree parties (see electoral results of the Rose in the Fist). After the election, Emma Bonino was sworn in as Minister of European Affairs and International Trade in Prodi II Cabinet.
In November 2006, after a row with Marco Pannella, who remains the real leader of the party behind the scenes, Daniele Capezzone was forced to leave the post of secretary and was replaced by the rank-and-file member Rita Bernardini. Since then Capezzone, although not leaving officially the party, became very critical of the government led by Romano Prodi and formed his own political association named Decide!, much closer to the centre-right than to the centre-left. Later on, he actually entered Forza Italia and even became their current spokesman.
As of November 2007, the Rose in the Fist is disbanded with the Italian Democratic Socialists engaged in the creation of the new Socialist Party and the Radicals at a new turning-point of their history. In the run-up to this year party convention, Marco Pannella declared that the party should "give absolute priority to economic, liberal and libertarian reforms rather than civil struggle to Vatican power, pre-power and arrogance, which were at the centre of the 2006 electoral campaign with the Rose in the Fist.
In June 2008 Bernardini, Coscioni and Zamparutti, all three elected to the Italian Parliament, were replaced by Antonella Casu, Bruno Mellano and Michele De Lucia, respectively, as party leadership roles and elected office are incompatible according to the party constitution.
The Italian Radicals are an atypical party for Italy and they are typically viewed as leftist by right-wing people, and rightist by left-wing people. Among other things, they are the only Italian party with a clear anti-clerical agenda, whereas most other parties prefer not to tread on the toes of the Catholic Church.
They are vocal supporters of human and civil rights, which they consider to include abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, artificial insemination, stem-cell research, abolition of the death penalty all over the world and legalization of soft drugs. This put at odds the party with the mainstream centre-right parties, while their strong support of libertarian policies, the free market, liberalizations, privatizations, low taxes and privately-funded health care put it at odds with many areas of the center-left.
In foreign policy, the Radicals are instinctively and staunchly pro-American, pro-European and were in favor of the intervention in Kosovo in 1999. They also propose an American-style reform of Italian political system, including presidentialism, competitive federalism and first-past-the-post. Despite being a small party, they are also keen supporters of a two-party system.