PR Political Rights 36 40
CL Civil Liberties 54 60
Last Year's Score & Status
90 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Italy’s parliamentary system features competitive multiparty elections. Civil liberties are generally respected, but concerns about the rights of migrants and LGBT+ people persist, and regional inequalities are persistent and substantial. Endemic problems with corruption and organized crime pose an enduring challenge to the rule of law and economic growth.

header2 Key Developments in 2022

  • In July, Prime Minister Mario Draghi resigned following the collapse of his national unity government. Draghi’s coalition fell apart when three of his main partners boycotted a confidence vote he had called.
  • In September snap elections, a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy party won the largest share of the vote and Meloni became Italy’s first female prime minister.
  • In January, Sergio Mattarella was reelected Italian president after eight rounds of voting.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

Parliament and regional representatives elect the president, whose role is largely ceremonial but sometimes politically influential, for a seven-year term. The legitimacy of the presidential vote rests largely on the fairness of legislative elections. Sergio Mattarella, a former constitutional judge, was reelected president with strong backing in January 2022 after support failed to coalesce around a successor in the seven previous rounds of voting.

The president appoints the prime minister, who serves as head of government and is often, but not always, the leader of the largest party in the Chamber of Deputies, Italy’s lower house. The prime minister proposes a Council of Ministers that requires confirmation by parliament.

In July 2022, the national unity government formed in January 2021 and led by Draghi—the third government formed following the 2018 elections—collapsed after three of Draghi’s main coalition partners boycotted a confidence vote he had called. Draghi resigned following the boycotted vote, and Mattarella dissolved parliament and called for snap national elections, which were held in September. Georgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy party was sworn in as prime minister in October, after her right-wing alliance took control of both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies in the September elections. The coalition government includes Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forward Italy (Forza Italia) in addition to the Brothers of Italy.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

The bicameral parliament consists of the 400-member Chamber of Deputies and the 200-member Senate. The September 2022 snap elections were the first that incorporated a drastic reduction in the number of parliamentary seats—down from 630 in the Chamber of Deputies and 315 in the Senate—that voters had approved in a 2020 referendum. Members of both houses are popularly elected for five-year terms, though the president can appoint five additional senators, and former presidents are also entitled to Senate seats.

The September 2022 elections were considered free and fair by international observers. The right-wing coalition led by Meloni won the largest share of the vote for both houses.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 4.004 4.004

While Italy’s electoral framework and campaign finance regulations are complex, the elections they enable have consistently been deemed fair and credible.

The current electoral law, adopted by parliament in 2017, introduced a mixed system in both houses, with 36 percent of seats allocated using the first-past-the-post method, and 64 percent using a proportional, party-list method. The law encouraged coalition governments, as demonstrated by the 2018 and 2022 election results. In the 2022 elections, 18-year-old voters were able to take part in the election of senators as well as members of the Chamber of Deputies for the first time, in accord with a 2021 constitutional amendment reducing the legal voting age for Senate elections, which had previously been 25.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 4.004 4.004

Political parties are generally able to form and operate freely, and the political landscape features a high level of pluralism and competition. Since the beginning of the 1990s, politics have been characterized by unstable coalitions and the frequent emergence of new parties.

Following violent protests against COVID-19 vaccinations that took place in October 2021, some parties called on the government to ban neofascist movements that participated in the protests, but it did not do so.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4.004 4.004

Italy has a long record of frequent changes in the governing coalition, with multiple transfers of power since the early 1990s. In the 2022 elections, center-left and centrist parties, who were unable to form large coalitions on the order of the right-wing alliance, collectively won more votes than Meloni's bloc, but the electoral law awards a third of seats on a first-past-the-post system, which favors broad coalitions, thus granting a solid majority in both houses of parliament to the right.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 3.003 4.004

The public is generally free to make political choices without undue interference. However, organized crime groups retain some ability to intimidate and influence politicians, especially at the local level, and to establish corruption networks abetted by public administrators. In 2022, the government dissolved several town councils over ties to local mafia-like groups, and some cases of mafia-related vote-buying were discovered in 2022 local elections.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3.003 4.004

Electoral laws contain provisions designed to encourage political participation by linguistic minorities, and to promote gender parity, though progress toward full political representation for women and LGBT+ people remains slow. Although Meloni is Italy’s first-ever female prime minister, women’s representation in parliament decreased following the 2022 elections, against the positive trend recorded in the past two decades. After the election, women made up 32 percent of the Chamber of Deputies and 34 percent of the Senate.

During the 2022 vote, transgender and gender-nonconforming voters complained of discrimination at many polling stations, where voters were forced into gender-segregated queues to vote.

The political participation rights accorded to migrants, and even to their descendants born in Italy, are extremely limited in national and local politics, a dynamic exacerbated by the emergence of a xenophobic and nationalist discourse in recent years and by the failure of citizenship reforms. In March 2022, a draft reform of the citizenship law to grant Italian citizenship to those born in Italy to foreign parents, those who entered Italy before the age of 12, and those who regularly attended school in the country, was adopted by the Chamber of Deputies but did not progress. According to survey data collected by the organization ActionAid, between 1.8 million and 2.5 million people are excluded from citizenship in Italy despite being born or raised there.

European Union (EU) citizens are entitled to vote in local elections.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 4.004 4.004

Elected officials are able to craft and implement policy without improper interference from unelected entities. However, Italy has not yet adopted comprehensive lobbying regulations at the national level.

In the lead-up to the September 2022 elections, there was intense speculation that Italian right-wing parties could be among those implicated in a US intelligence dossier describing covert Russian government funding of some right-wing parties in other countries.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3.003 4.004

Corruption remains a serious problem despite long-term efforts to combat it, and its impact is exacerbated when officials and members of organized crime networks jointly carry out graft schemes. The perception among experts and business executives is that the level of public-sector corruption is relatively high. An anticorruption law adopted in 2019 tightened sanctions for corruption, reformed statutes of limitation to limit stalling tactics, and extended existing antimafia investigative tools to include corruption offenses. Despite this increased capacity, many sectors, including public procurement, require additional reforms to limit graft.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 3.003 4.004

The legal framework mandates administrative transparency and access to public information through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) adopted in 2016. Although the legislation designates access to information as a fundamental right, efforts to ensure compliance with FOIA requests by public administrators remain incomplete.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 3.003 4.004

Freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed. Despite the rapid growth of the online news industry, traditional media still play a large role in news consumption. There are more than 100 daily newspapers, most of them locally or regionally based, as well as political party papers, free papers, and weekly publications. Concentration of ownership remains a major concern. Internet access is generally unrestricted.

The frequency of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs)—lawsuits used to intimidate or silence journalists and others who publicize matters of public interest—poses a threat to investigative journalism.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4.004 4.004

Religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed and respected in practice. There is no official religion; while the Roman Catholic Church receives certain benefits under a treaty with the state, other groups have access to similar benefits through their own accords.

Some local governments have raised obstacles to the construction and recognition of mosques, and right-wing political parties have stoked anti-Muslim attitudes. Antisemitic acts have also trended upward in recent years.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4.004 4.004

Academic freedom is generally respected.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4.004 4.004

People are typically able to freely discuss controversial or sensitive topics in public without fear of surveillance or retribution.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 4.004 4.004

The freedom to assemble peacefully is guaranteed in the constitution and typically upheld in practice. In December 2022, parliament approved a law proposed by the government criminalizing large, unlicensed musical gatherings, with punishments of up to six years in prison for those who organize them. When the bill was introduced in October, it banned any gatherings over 50 people that could be perceived as threatening public safety, but its provisions were narrowed following public outcry. However, free assembly advocates continue to express concerns over the vagueness of the law’s provisions, even in its narrower form.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 4.004 4.004

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are generally free to organize and operate. In recent years, Italian authorities have engaged in repeated standoffs with NGO-operated ships involved in rescue operations of trafficked and smuggled migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. NGOs rescued more than 11,000 migrants in 2022. After taking office, the Meloni government announced its intention to pass a new code of conduct targeting and obstructing search-and-rescue NGOs; the measure had not been passed by year’s end.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 4.004 4.004

Trade unions are generally free to organize and operate. The constitution recognizes the right to strike but places restrictions on strikes by employees in essential sectors like transportation, sanitation, and health, as well as by some self-employed individuals, including lawyers, doctors, and truck drivers.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 4.004 4.004

The judiciary is generally independent and autonomous. Allegations of abuse of power and corruption involving members of the High Council of the Judiciary, which controls internal governance of the judiciary, have led to reform. In June 2022, a new law was adopted aimed at reforming aspects of the judicial system such as the “revolving door” between judgeships and other elected public offices. The law also introduced stricter performance evaluation of judges and prosecutors and new rules for the composition of the High Council.

Organized crime networks continue to threaten judges and prosecutors involved in antimafia processes, particularly in Calabria, but state protection measures function adequately.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 3.003 4.004

Due process rights are largely upheld. However, judicial procedures are often characterized by lengthy delays; Italy has one of the lowest numbers of judges per capita in the EU. The government has been criticized for denying detained migrants access to lawyers. Recent criminal justice reforms include a requirement that initial appeals be resolved within two years, measures to accelerate the digitalization of the justice system, incentives for the use of restorative justice measures, and time limits for the preliminary hearing stage of cases.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 3.003 4.004

While the population is generally free from major threats to physical security, there have been reports of excessive use of force by police and prison guards, particularly against undocumented migrants. Asylum seekers and undocumented migrants have been held in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 3.003 4.004

The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, race, and sexual orientation, among other categories, and these protections are generally enforced. However, members of the Romany minority have unequal access to housing, and many live in segregated settlements that lack adequate infrastructure. LGBT+ people face societal discrimination and occasional acts of violence, and there are not effective measures protecting them from hate speech and hate crimes.

Italy’s treatment of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers has been subject to significant criticism in recent years. In late 2018, parliament approved legal changes that tightened conditions for granting asylum and humanitarian protection, reduced access to services, and eased deportation conditions. A decree enacted in October 2020 allows migrants and refugees to apply for residency on humanitarian protection grounds if they “risk being subjected to torture or inhumane treatment” at home and expands access to public services, but does not offer regularized status to those who lost legal residency under the 2018 decrees.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 4.004 4.004

Individuals are generally free to travel and to change their place of residence, employment, and education.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 3.003 4.004

The legal and regulatory framework supports property rights and the operation of private businesses, but corruption and organized crime can hinder normal business activity, as can onerous bureaucratic obstacles. Delays in court proceedings often undermine enforcement of protections for property rights.

According to experts on organized crime, mafia groups exploited the social and economic crises provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic, expanding control of cash-starved local businesses via loan-sharking and money-laundering operations.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 4.004 4.004

The law protects individual freedom on personal status issues such as marriage and divorce. Same-sex civil unions with nearly all the benefits of marriage are permitted, and courts have begun to recognize second-parent adoption rights for same-sex couples. Though public awareness of the problem of domestic violence is increasing due to advocacy campaigns, it remains a persistent issue, and calls to the national domestic violence hotline rose significantly during the COVID-19 lockdown.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 3.003 4.004

In the last few years, Italy has adopted measures to combat human trafficking and labor exploitation, but both phenomena remain concerns, especially with respect to asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants from Eastern Europe. The COVID-19 pandemic and the energy crisis following the Russian government’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 increased migrants’ vulnerability to exploitation and worsened labor and living conditions. The trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation remains a concern.

On Italy

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  • Global Freedom Score

    90 100 free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    75 100 free