A heat map of Italian Parliament members’ age, divided by legislature
The eldest members of the Italian Parliament ever
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The average, the max and the min
Average age trend in the Italian Parliament
by Federico Anghelé
The average age of the members of the Italian Parliament points to a gradual but not constant increase, which deserves a more detailed analysis. On the one hand, the marked ageing of the Italian population – which went from an average age of 28.6 in 1950 to 43.3 in 2013 – might lead to think that voters’ and candidates’ ages somewhat converged: in other words, an older population might choose representatives it identifies with, also in terms of age. In fact, in the three decades from the Constituent Assembly to 1976, Parliament members’ average age remained nearly the same, never going above 51 or below 50: the reins of the legislative power in Italy were in the hands of mature but not old men, with what we can imagine was a steady and untroubled turnover.
The first trend reversal in the physiological ageing of politicians (and Italian citizens in general) was recorded with the 1976 elections. Three decisive elements may have contributed to this: first of all, the electorate for the Chamber of Deputies had been expanded to 18-year-olds, and new of-age citizens presumably tended to favor parties with younger candidates. Indeed, the second element we can pinpoint is that the representatives of new movements such as Democrazia Proletaria and the Partito Radicale entered the Parliament for the first time, contributing to lower members’ average age. Thirdly, the Partito Comunista – which also had a younger ruling class, on average, than the Democrazia Cristiana – recorded an outstanding success (which remains a record in the party’s history).
The second noteworthy shift occurred with the 1994 elections, which brought a deep change in Italian politics. It was the year Berlusconi entered politics, and the electoral success of Forza Italia opened the doors of parliamentary institutions to completely new political figures, who had not participated in political party activities until then, and had not risen through the ranks like professional politicians. However, the marked turnover in the 1994 Parliament was not due only to the victory of Forza Italia, but also to the defeat of Italy’s historical parties, smote by the Mani Pulite scandals. Thus new political organizations (including the Lega Nord) entered the Houses, bringing with them a younger ruling class that was less involved in the shady political-business misconducts that the Milanese magistrates had brought to light and prosecuted.
Finally, the 2013 elections resulted in the youngest legislature in the history of the Italian Republic. The outcome was the reaction to a widespread dissatisfaction, loaded with fervid polemics, against a "caste" of politicians seen as increasingly old and hostile to generational turnover. This new cultural trend led to the success of the Movimento 5 Stelle, with its “super young” representatives, but also encouraged the Partito Democratico to present new candidates who had not yet matured a long political career.
While the past 20 years were dotted by these various episodes in which new generational and social elements entered the Italian Parliament, they were also the decades of the oldest legislatures in the history of the Italian Republic. Indeed, the 2006 elections resulted in a Parliament with the oldest average age ever (53.8), immediately preceded and followed by the second and third oldest legislatures (2001-2006 and 2008-2013). We will have to wait for the next elections to find out whether the ageing of the political class is Italy’s unavoidable destiny and the 2013 election’s “turnabout” was merely a one-off event, fueled by Italians’ unhappiness with the political scene, or whether it was a real turning point, leading to an era of easier change in the political class.