Democrats of the Left

Democrats of the Left
Democratici di Sinistra
Former Secretaries Massimo D'Alema
Walter Veltroni
Piero Fassino
President Massimo D'Alema (1998–2007)
Founded 13 February 1998
Dissolved 14 October 2007
Preceded by Democratic Party of the Left
Merged into Democratic Party
Headquarters Via Palermo 12, Rome
Youth wing Young Left
Membership  (2007) 615,414[1]
Ideology Social democracy
Democratic socialism
Political position Centre-left
National affiliation The Olive Tree (1998–2007)
The Union (2005–2007)
European affiliation Party of European Socialists
International affiliation Socialist International
European Parliament group Party of European Socialists

The Democrats of the Left (Italian: Democratici di Sinistra, DS) was a social-democratic[2][3][4][5][6][7] political party in Italy.

The DS, successor of the Democratic Party of the Left and the Italian Communist Party, was formed in 1998 upon the merger of several minor social-democratic parties. A member of The Olive Tree coalition and, in 2007 it was merged with Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy and a number of minor centre-left parties to form the Democratic Party.

The DS was successively led by Massimo D'Alema, Walter Veltroni and Piero Fassino.


The DS developed from the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), which in turn was a reshaping of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) into a democratic-socialist party. Under the leadership of Massimo D'Alema, the party merged with some minor centre-left movements (Labour Federation, Social Christians, Republican Left, Unitarian Communists, Reformists for Europe and Democratic Federation). The DS' symbol lacked the hammer and sickle, which was present in the PDS' one and was instead replaced by the red rose of European social democracy as used by the Party of European Socialists (PES).

Massimo D'Alema became Prime Minister of Italy in October 1998, the first former Communist to hold the post. D'Alema was replaced as the leader of DS by Walter Veltroni. During the party's first national congress in January 2000, Veltroni received the support of the 79.9% of delegates, while the left-wing of the party, at the time led by three women (Anna Finocchiaro, Fulvia Bandoli and Pasqualina Napoletano), had the support of 20.1% of delegates.

Leadership of Piero Fassino

During the party's second national congress in November 2001, Piero Fassino, a mainstream social democtat, was elected with 61.8% of party members' votes. In the event, Giovanni Berlinguer, endorsed by left-wingers, democratic socialists and the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) trade union, gained 34.1%, while Enrico Morando, from the liberal right-wing, got 4.1%.

Fassino was re-elected during the third national congress in February 2005 with 79.0% of party members' votes. No other candidates stood against Fassino for secretary, but left-wing candidates ran for congressional delegates: the DS Left-wing – Returning to win motion/list won 14.6% of the vote, DS Left-wing for Socialism 4.0% and the Ecologist Left 2.4%.

2006 general election

In the 2006 general election, the DS endorsed Romano Prodi for Prime Minister and were part of the Olive Tree list, along with Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy (DL) and the European Republicans Movement (MRE), for the Chamber of Deputies, while fielding its own list for the Senate. The DS–DL–MRE joint list obtained 31.2% of the vote and 220 deputies, while the DS list 17.2% and 62 senators. The party's dismal result and the razor-thin win of The Union coalition over the centre-right House of Freedoms coalition prompted a discussion on the party's future. By the end of 2006 the party leadership was committed to a merger with DL.

Nine Ministers of the Prodi II Cabinet were affiliated to the DS, notably including Massimo D'Alema Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Also Giorgio Napolitano, who was elected President of Italy in May 2006, hailed from the DS, but, as usual, he renounced his party affiliation before being sworn in.

Fourth national congress and split

The party's fourth national congress was held in April 2007. During local congresses, Fassino and his motion named For the Democratic Party, backed by most leading members (D'Alema, Pier Luigi Bersani, Antonio Bassolino, etc.), received the support of 75.6% by party members. The left-wing of Fabio Mussi, Cesare Salvi, Fulvia Bandoli and Valdo Spini (To the Left. For European Socialism) scored 15.0%; this motion was instead opposed to the merger of the DS with DL. A third motion (For a New, Democratic and Socialist Party), signed by Gavino Angius, Mauro Zani and originally Giuseppe Caldarola, took 9.3% of the vote: its members (gathered in the new Socialists and Europeans faction) supported the creation of a new party only within the PES, which was opposed by DL.

As a result, the DS approved the formation of a "Democratic Party", along with DL and minor parties. Most supporters of the two motions which had opposed the merger left the DS right after the congress and launched the Democratic Left, which aimed to unite the heterogeneous Italian left-wing.

The Democratic Party (PD) was formed in October 2007 and its first secretary was Walter Veltroni, a former DS leader who was elected leader of the new party through a leadership election, which saw the participation of over 3,5 million Italian voters and in which Veltroni won 75.8% of the vote.


Inside the DS, there was often a somewhat simplistic distinction between reformists (riformisti) and radicals (radicali), indicating respectively the party's mainstream and its left-wing. The party also included several organised factions.

The social-democratic majority was loosely organised, while including several organised movements: the Labourites – Liberal Socialists, Reformist Europe and the Sicilian "Reformist Movement", all three splinter groups of the Italian Socialist Party; the Social Christians, which had emerged from the left-wing of Christian Democracy; the Republican Left, from the left-wing of the Italian Republican Party; and the Liberal Left, from the left-wing of the Italian Liberal Party. A dissident group left the Labourites in order to launch Socialists and Europeans as a vehicle to oppose the party's merger with DL.

On the party's right, Liberal DS had a moderate Third Way or radical centre political agenda and joined the party's majority in latter years.

Before the party's last congress in 2007, the left-wing opposition was led by the DS Left-wing – Returning to win, a democratic-socialist grouping, with other smaller groups including DS Left – wing for Socialism and the Ecologist Left.

Before that, some DS leading members, including Pietro Ingrao, Achille Occhetto and Pietro Folena, had left the party in order to join the Communist Refoundation Party which, at its sixth congress, held in January 2005, moved toward a more heterogeneous, non-sectarian and strongly pacifist variety of leftism.

Popular support

The electoral results of the Democrats of the Left (Democratic Party of the Left until 1998) in the 10 most populated regions of Italy are shown in the table below. The result for the 2006 general election refers to the election for the Senate (the DS contested the election for the Chamber of Deputies in a joint list with DL).

1994 general1995 regional1996 general1999 European2000 regional2001 general2004 European2005 regional2006 general
Piedmont16.721.716.913.717.715.9with Ulivo20.1 16.9
Lombardy13.016.515.112.9with Ulivo11.7with Ulivowith Ulivo12.4
Veneto12.216.511.811.112.310.7with Ulivowith Ulivo11.5
Emilia-Romagna36.643.035.732.836.228.8with Ulivowith Ulivo30.6
Tuscany33.740.934.831.936.430.9with Ulivowith Ulivo29.8
Lazio23.327.223.518.420.017.3with Ulivowith Ulivo19.2
Campania19.719.520.013.814.214.3with Ulivo15.314.1
Apulia19.922. Ulivo16.615.6
Calabria22. Ulivo15.414.4
Sicily16.514.1 (1996)16.612.010.1 (2001)10.3with Ulivo14.0 (2006)11.4

Electoral results

Italian Parliament

Chamber of Deputies
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
2001 6,151,154 (#2) 16.6
137 / 630
Walter Veltroni
2006 with Ulivo (#1)
123 / 630
Decrease 14
Piero Fassino
Senate of the Republic
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
2001 with Ulivo (#2)
64 / 315
Walter Veltroni
2006 5,977,347 (#2) 17.5
62 / 315
Decrease 2
Piero Fassino

European Parliament

European Parliament
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1999 5,387,729 (#2) 17.3
15 / 87
Walter Veltroni
2004 with Ulivo (#1)
12 / 78
Decrease 3
Piero Fassino




  1. Ds: Tutti i numeri del quarto congresso, "Corriere della Sera", 19 April 2007.
  2. André Krouwel (2012). Party Transformations in European Democracies. SUNY Press. p. 333. ISBN 978-1-4384-4483-3. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  3. Marcus E. Ethridge; Howard Handelman (2009). Politics in a Changing World: A Comparative Introduction to Political Science. Cengage Learning. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-495-57048-6. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  4. Donald F. Busky (2002). Communism in History and Theory: The European Experience. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-275-97734-4. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  5. Dimitri Almeida (2012). The Impact of European Integration on Political Parties: Beyond the Permissive Consensus. CRC Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-136-34039-0. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  6. Ari-Veikko Anttiroiko; Matti Mälkiä (2007). Encyclopedia of Digital Government. Idea Group Inc (IGI). p. 389. ISBN 978-1-59140-790-4. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  7. Steinar Stjernø (2009). Solidarity in Europe: The History of an Idea. Cambridge University Press. p. 276. ISBN 978-0-521-60511-3. Retrieved 24 July 2013.

External links

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