In 2018, twenty-four years after the emergence of the so-called Second Republic – more precisely the second party system of the Italian Republic – politics in Italy saw a new earthquake characterised by the fall of the two parties that have ruled the country in recent decades: Forza Italia and the Democratic Party. In parallel, two populist movements – the Five-star Movement and the League – won the general election. Italy thus confirmed its place as the most interesting and surprising political laboratory in Europe. The country has proved to be one where the populist wave has not only been extremely successful, but where a populist coalition came to power promising to implement a new reform agenda (partly) at odds with the priorities of the past and of the European Union. As more than a year has now passed since the general election and the formation of the government, this Introduction highlights what elements of continuity and change feature in 2018 vis-à-vis the experience of the Second Republic. We argue that the elements of change in the populist take-over of Italian politics – which, to be sure, exist and are important – still do not appear sufficient to mark a shift to a ‘Third Republic’.
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