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Democratic Party of the Left
Partito Democratico della Sinistra
SecretaryAchille Occhetto (1991–94)
Massimo D'Alema (1994–98)
Founded3 February 1991 (1991-02-03)
Dissolved14 February 1998 (1998-02-14)
Preceded byItalian Communist Party
Succeeded byDemocrats of the Left
Youth wingYouth Left
Membershipmax: 989,708 (1991)
min: 613,412 (1998)[1]
IdeologyDemocratic socialism
Social democracy
Political positionCentre-left to left-wing
National affiliationAlliance of Progressives (1994)
The Olive Tree (1995–98)
European affiliationParty of European Socialists (1993–98)
International affiliationSocialist International (1993–98)
European Parliament groupEuropean United Left (1991–93)
Party of European Socialists (1993–98)
Colors  Red

The Democratic Party of the Left (Italian: Partito Democratico della Sinistra, PDS) was a democratic socialist and social-democratic[2][3][4][5][6][7] political party in Italy. Founded in February 1991 as the post-communist evolution of the Italian Communist Party, the party was the largest in the Alliance of Progressives and The Olive Tree coalitions. In February 1998, the party merged with minor parties to form Democrats of the Left.


The PDS evolved from the Italian Communist Party (PCI), the largest communist party in the Western Bloc for most of the Cold War. Since 1948, it had been the second-largest party in Parliament. The PCI moved away from communist orthodoxy in the late 1960s, when it opposed the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. In the 1970s, it was one of the first parties to embrace Eurocommunism. By the late 1980s, the PCI had ties with social-democratic and democratic-socialist parties, and it was increasingly apparent that it was no longer a Marxist–Leninist party. With this in mind, in 1991 the PCI dissolved itself and refounded itself as the PDS,[8] reforming its ideology to adopt acceptance of multi-party democracy and the mixed economy.[3] Its first leader was Achille Occhetto, the final party secretary of the PCI.

Although Ochetto had proclaimed the end of Communism, the new party's logo consisted of an oak tree sprouting from the previous symbol of the PCI in a roundel at the tree's roots. This logo was adopted not only to allow the PDS to trade on the PCI's roots, but to keep any potential splinter party from immediately adopting the old PCI symbol. This did not prevent hard-liners leaving the party and launching the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC).[4] In 1993 the PDS was admitted into both the Socialist International and Party of European Socialists.[9] In the same year the party's MEPs moved from the European United Left to the Party of European Socialists Group in the European Parliament.[10] In 1996, the PDS explored the possibility of adopting the fist and rose emblem of the Socialist International, but was prevented to do it by the Transnational Radical Party, which had obtained the right to use it in Italy in the 1970s.[11]

In the 1992 general election, the PDS reached second place with 107 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 64 in the Senate. The PDS had briefly entered the national unity government of Carlo Azeglio Ciampi on 29 April 1993, holding three ministries. However, both the PDS and Federation of the Greens quickly withdrew from the cabinet on 4 May 1993 in protest against the Chamber's refusal to begin prosecution of former Prime Minister Bettino Craxi.[12]

The party's transformation from the PCI to the PDS happened with the background of Tangentopoli and the end of the so-called First Republic, when the dominant Christian Democrats and four other establishment parties collapsed and were replaced by new political formations during 1992–1994.[2] In the following 1994 general election, Occhetto was the leader of the Alliance of Progressives, a left-wing coalition of which the PDS was the largest single party. However, he lost to the centre-right coalition, organised during the election as the Pole of Freedoms and Pole of Good Government jointly led by Silvio Berlusconi, who became Prime Minister for the first time. In the aftermath of the election, Massimo D'Alema was elected new party secretary. In the 1996 general election, after the collapse of Berlusconi's coalition, the PDS was the largest component of the centre-left coalition, winning the election under the banner of The Olive Tree led by Romano Prodi. It became the largest single party in the legislature, with 146 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 102 in the Senate. The Prodi I Cabinet included 16 PDS ministers and 10 PDS junior ministers–the first time that (former) Communists had taken part in government in half a century. Walter Veltroni, a leading member of the PDS, served as Deputy Prime Minister, while another leading member, Giorgio Napolitano, became Minister of the Interior.

In 1997 D'Alema called for the party to become a full-fledged European social-democratic party. In accordance with this call, the PDS merged in 1998 with the Labour Federation (splinters of the Italian Socialist Party), the Social Christians (including also several former Christian Democrats), the Republican Left (splinters of the Italian Republican Party), the Unitarian Communists (splinters of the Communist Refoundation Party), the Reformists for Europe (mostly former Socialists) and the Democratic Federation (a Sardinian party formed by former Socialists, Democratic Socialists and Republicans) to form Democrats of the Left (DS). On that occasion, the party decided to replace the hammer and sickle of its logo with the red rose of European social democracy.

Popular support

The electoral results of PDS in general (Chamber of Deputies) and European Parliament elections from 1992 to 1996 are shown in the chart below.

Electoral results

Italian Parliament

Chamber of Deputies
Election year Votes % Seats +/− Leader
1992 6,321,084 (2nd) 16.1
107 / 630
1994 7,881,646 (2nd) 20.4
116 / 630
Increase 9
1996 7,894,118 (1st) 21.1
172 / 630
Increase 56
Senate of the Republic
Election year Votes % Seats +/− Leader
1992 5,663,976 (2nd) 17.0
66 / 315
1994 with AdP
76 / 315
Increase 10
1996 with Olive Tree
98 / 315
Increase 26

European Parliament

European Parliament
Election year Votes % Seats +/− Leader
1994 6,281,354 (2nd) 19.1
16 / 87



  1. ^ "Gli iscritti ai principali partiti politici italiani della Prima Repubblica dal 1945 al 1991". Archived from the original (Microsoft Excel) on 2013-11-10.
  2. ^ a b Carol Diane St Louis (2011). Negotiating Change: Approaches to and the Distributional Implications of Social Welfare and Economic Reform. Stanford University. p. 119. STANFORD:RW793BX2256. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
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  7. ^ Simon Parker (1996). The New Italian Republic: New. Taylor & Francis. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-415-12162-0. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  8. ^ Alan Renwick (2010). The Politics of Electoral Reform: Changing the Rules of Democracy. Cambridge University Press. p. 121–. ISBN 978-1-139-48677-4.
  9. ^ Dimitri Almeida (2012). The Impact of European Integration on Political Parties: Beyond the Permissive Consensus. Routledge. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-415-69374-5. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  10. ^ William Heller; Carol Mershon (2009). Political Parties and Legislative Party Switching. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-230-62255-5.
  11. ^ Maestri, Gabriele (2006). "Senza rosa e senza pugno? Considerazioni giuridico-simboliche sulla presenza elettorale dei Radicali in Italia" (pdf). Nomos – Le attualità del diritto (in Italian). Rome. 2016–1. ISSN 2279-7238. Retrieved 20 November 2022.
  12. ^

Further reading