Italy has been a Democratic Republic since June 2, 1946 when the monarchy was abolished by a popular referendum. The constitution was promulgated on January 1, 1948. The Italian State is centralized. The Prefect of each of the Provinces is appointed by and answerable to the central government. In addition to the provinces, Italian Constitution provides 20 regions with limited governing powers. Five Regions: Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige, Valle d’Aosta and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, function with special autonomy statutes. The other 15 Regions were established in 1970 and vote for regional “councils.” The establishment of regional governments throughout Italy has brought some decentralization to the national governmental machinery, and recent governments have devolved further powers to the regions. Many regional governments, particularly in the north
of Italy, are seeking additional powers. The 1948 constitution established a perfectly Bicameral Parliament (Chamber of Deputies and Senate), a separate judiciary, and an executive branch composed of a Council of Ministers (Cabinet), headed by the president of the Council (Prime Minister). The President of the Republic is elected for seven years by the Parliament sitting jointly with a small number of regional delegates. The President nominates the Prime Minister who chooses the other Ministers. The Council of Ministers in practice composed mostly of members of Parliament, must retain the confidence of both Houses. The Houses of Parliament are popularly and directly elected by a proportional representation system. Under 2005 legislation, the Chamber of Deputies has 630 members (12 are elected by Italians abroad). In addition to the 315 elected members (6 are elected by Italians abroad), the Senate includes former Presidents and several other persons appointed for life according to special constitutional provisions. Both Houses are elected for a maximum of five years, but either may be dissolved before the expiration of their normal term. Legislative bills may originate in either house and must be passed by a majority in both. The Italian judicial system is based on Roman law modified by the Napoleonic code and subsequent statutes. There is only partial judicial review of legislation in the American sense.
A constitutional court, which passes on the constitutionality of laws, is a post-World War II innovation.