In the 1980s, for the first time since 1945, two governments were led by non-Christian Democrat Premiers: a republican ( Giovanni Spadolini) and a socialist ( Bettino Craxi); the DC remained however the main force supporting the government. With the end of the Years of lead, the PCI gradually increased their votes under the leadership of Enrico Berlinguer. The Socialist party (PSI), led by Bettino Craxi, became more and more critical of the communists and of the Soviet Union; Craxi himself pushed in favour of US president Ronald Reagan's positioning of Pershing missiles in Italy, a move the communists hotly contested.

As the socialist party moved to more moderate positions, the ranks of the PCI increased in numbers, and the Communist party surpassed the Christian Democracy (DC) in the European election of 1984, barely two days after Berlinguer's death, that likely drew sympathy in the population. Huge crowds attended Berlinguer's funeral. That was to be the only time the Christian Democracy was not the largest party in a nation-wide election they participated in. In 1984, the Craxi government revised the 1927 Lateran Pacts with the Vatican, which concluded the role of Catholicism as Italy's state religion. With the Mani Pulite investigation, starting just one year after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the discovery of the extent of corruption, which involved most of Italy's important political parties, apart from the PCI, led the whole power structure to falter. The scandal became known as Tangentopoli, and seemingly indestructible parties like the DC and the PSI disbanded. The Communist party, although it had not been much worried by legal investigations, changed its name to Democratic Party of the Left. Observing the fall of the Soviet Union, it took the role of one democratic party in Italy. What was to follow was then called the transition to the Second Republic.


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