Do leaders make a difference? Political change under Matteo Renzi – Call for papers

Italian Politics Specialist group is organising a panel entitled ‘Do leaders make a difference? Political change under Matteo Renzi’, which will be held at the Annual conference of the UK Political Studies Association, University of Strathclyde, 10-12 April 2017.

Paper proposals, not exceeding 250 words, should be sent to Jim Newell ( by 13 October 2016.

The Italian constitutional referendum, which looks likely to be held in the autumn, will have dramatic consequences for the career of the current Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, whatever its outcome. Either the proposed reforms will be voted down, in which case, Renzi is likely to find it extremely hard to continue, or they will be supported, in which case the Prime Minister is likely to be strengthened and may seek to pose as the ‘father’ of a new constitutional settlement for the country. At the same time, following a trend set by Silvio Berlusconi from 1994, Renzi is reputed to have an unusual degree of power and an unusually high profile as compared to the average for post-war Italian prime ministers; for he has been said to exemplify those processes of presidentialisation whereby, thanks to the significance of leaders in electoral processes, they are able to acquire increasing autonomy of their parties and thereby assert a predominant role vis-à-vis their parliamentary majorities. But if this has been the case – and it is not something that can be assumed – then we would expect Renzi, as leaders generally, to have made more of a difference as compared to their counterparts in years gone by. That is, we would expect them to have been more successful in realising their ambitions, in implementing their programmes, simply because of their enhanced power as compared to the power of past leaders. Which obviously begs the question. So the aftermath of the referendum will be an excellent moment to take stock of the Renzi premiership and to ask how much difference it has made to the trajectories of Italian politics and in what those differences mainly consist.

This panel, then, will provide a forum for paper presenters wishing to share and discuss their ideas concerning:

  • Political, institutional and/or policy-making dynamics in the Renzi era
  • What the Renzi premiership has to teach us about the presidentialisation thesis
  • What the Renzi premiership signifies or is likely to signify from one or more historical perspectives

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