More Violence in Democracies: Italy and Civil Unrest

Violence erupted in Italy today (December 14th) after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi remained in power following a confidence vote.  To many, the violence in Italy is surprising: this is an advanced democracy!  People aren’t supposed to take to the streets!  However unexpected the violence appears, Italy’s  increase in domestic violence was predicted by our statistical model.  In fact, in many regards, Italy is a perfect example of a country “ripe” for violence.

First, Italian human rights have not been ideal.  As shown in the global statistical model results, countries with less-than-perfect performance on key physical integrity rights (things like freedom from unlawful detention and political disappearances) actually fuel the domestic fire, leading people to take to the street.  Also, like found in the global sample, the ability of protesters to organize matters.  The violence in Italy has been coordinated by student groups armed with cell phones and internet access.  Although the media may be good for a whole host of political and economic outcomes, it also aids in mobilization against a government.  In this regard, the violence in Italy is similar to election protests in Iran in 2008.

The take away point: people upset at government practices, whether in a democracy or a dictatorship, now find it easier than ever to coordinate against their government.

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