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The COVID-19 pandemic crisis and the personalization of the government in Italy

Luigi Rullo (University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 16 February 2021

Issue publication date: 12 April 2021




The article investigates how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated and deepened the presidentialization of politics in Italy. It examines how a series of innovative rules and procedures adopted by the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to face the extraordinary event are part of a permanent presidentialization dynamic.


This study analyzes the role of prime minister in coping with the pandemic in Italy within the analytical framework of the personalization of politics. Section 1 investigates how the prime minister has resorted to autonomous normative power through intensive use of the Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers (DPCM). Section 2 observes the establishment of a more direct relationship with citizens through extensive use of digital communication and high engagement. Section 3 analyzes the “personal task force” appointed by the prime minister and highlights a new balance between technocratic/private roles and politics undermining democratic accountability.


By examining three main aspects of the personalization of politics, the article observes that the COVID-19 pandemic has facilitated the movement to presidentialization of power in Italy. It argues that the COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened political and institutional trends already in place before the crisis.


The article expands the comparative research on the presidentialization of politics. The Italian case clearly underlines how the pandemic crisis represented a further step of progressive dominance of the “executive” over the other branches of government. The article suggests an agenda for future cross-institutional and cross-national analysis.



The research leading to these results has been realized within the Relevant Research Project of National Interest (PRIN) 2020–2023 “Monocratic Government. The Impact of Personalisation on Contemporary Political Regimes.”


Rullo, L. (2021), "The COVID-19 pandemic crisis and the personalization of the government in Italy", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 196-207.



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