The ‘doparie’ is an Intra-Party Deliberative Referendum mechanism that is meant to improve the internal decision making process within parties in between elections.

Problems and Purpose

Raffaele Calabretta, a senior researcher at the Italian National Research Council developed this mechanism to be used by party members in between elections to deliberate, make decisions, and vote (Calabretta, 2010, 2011). The doparie are open to all the supporters of a party, and are centred in providing balanced information and promoting good deliberation. The doparie are designed to improve the communication between party members and voters, to increase accountability, and to allow parties to consult the base on difficult decisions that split the elected representatives (e.g., end of life laws).


In December 2005, the proposal of doparies was first officially presented in the weekly magazine Avvenimenti (Calabretta, 2005). In December 2007, the spokesman for the Secretary of the Democratic Party (PD) Roberto Roscani commented as follows: “The proposal of doparies was read with attention and will be considered in the committee that has the task of preparing proposals for the Statute of the PD.” Article 27 of the Statute of the PD—approved on February 16, 2008, and amended by the National Assembly on May 21-22, 2010—provides for procedures similar to doparies (called “internal referenda”).

In early March 2009, two articles on doparies written by Mario Pirani (2009a, 2009b), one of the most prominent Italian journalists (Pirani, 2010), were published in the most important Italian newspaper, la Repubblica, followed by several other commentary articles in main national newspapers and by national public television interviews (e.g., Calabretta, 2009a, 2009b).

At the end of March 2009, the first congress of the right-wing party Il Popolo della Libertà (PDL) approved the statute of the party. Article 10 provides for electronic consultations on important decisions. (As already pointed out, doparies have to be preceded by a critical phase of study and debate, in which there is a reasoned exchange of different positions with regard to the subject of the dopary among a limited number of participants.)

The proposal of doparies entered into all three motions of primaries’ congress of the PD in October 2009 (in the congress motion Marino, it is written as “primary and dopary party”; Civati, 2009). Close to the primaries of the PD, the media coverage of doparies had an international visibility through Miguel Mora in the Spanish newspaper El Paìs (Mora, 2009).

In January 2010, the essay titled “Doparie dopo le primarie” (Calabretta, 2010a) was published, and then promoted all over the country. On December 20, 2010, doparies were described in the newspaper la Repubblica as “a system of democratic common sense wisdom” (Ceccarelli, 2010). In February 2011, the new center-right party Futuro e Libertà, born from the splitting of PDL held its constituent assembly and approved the first articles of the Statute, which speak of “peripheral participation in decision-making.” The party leaders have spoken from the stage of a technology platform, connected to the Internet, for members to vote on all decisions of the party (Maurelli, 2011).

The widespread implementation of doparies could start from the bottom. On March 5, 2008, a civil list near the center-right at Bitonto, a large town near Bari, in southern Italy, brought the political agenda for administrative doparies ( On October 25, 2009, the same day when the national primary of the PD was conducted, the party leaders of Luino (Varese) decided to organize a sort of referendum on the decision of the municipal administration to build a wall along the lake. The consultation was open to all citizens and had a great turnout: About 15% more than the people who have voted in the primaries decided to express their opinion in the consultation, despite the requirement to make a double line (Varese news, 2009).

In the uncertain situation of Italian politics at the end of 2010 and early 2011, characterized by mistrust from the side of electors to the major Italian parties, the secretaries of the PD of some towns in Sicily (Enna, Caltagirone, and Gela) organized a referendum open to members and electors on the decision of whether the party should continue to support the regional government. The initiative infected the other parties of the center-left wing, which called for a coalition regional consultation on the issue. Subsequently, Senator Enzo Bianco, a former Minister of Interior Affairs, through YouTube, gathered signatures of party members for a deliberative referendum based on Article 36 of the Statute of the Regional PD, which refers to Article 27 of the national statute. Some newspapers and blogs explicitly spoke of “doparies” (Catania Politica, 2011; Condorelli, 2011; Giornale di Sicilia, 2011; L’Opinione, 2011; Pipitone, 2011). A total of 5,000 signatures were then delivered by May 2, 2011: The regional leaders of the party indicated that referendum regulation would be approved in June 2011 and that what should be the first regional dopary would take place after the summer. In a press conference at the Chamber of Deputies, convened on April 14, 2011, to present to the press a new draft law on internal party democracy and discipline of primaries, the former secretary of the PD Walter Veltroni spoke in favor of the internal party referenda and specified that they could be subject to further regulation in political parties (Fraschilla, 2011).

During the same period, young national political party leaders such as Giuseppe Civati and Sandro Gozi have publicly expressed on their Facebook profiles that they will organize the first national dopary on the theme of the political alliances of the PD, a topic that lacerates the party for years. In his book “Oltre i partiti” (“Beyond the parties”, 2011) the former coordinator of PD Goffredo Bettini has proposed to the center-left to open up to new forms of representation, in which the role of primaries and doparies would be crucial.

It has to be verified whether the ordinary accomplishment of doparies in one of the two major Italian parties could have a contagious effect on the other political parties, as seems to be already happening: In March 2011, a consultation on nuclear energy was launched among the party members on the site of right-wing party Futuro e Libertà. In May 2011, Antonio Barile, a former mayor of San Giovanni in Fiore (Calabria, South Italy), committed himself to delivering doparies if reelected as mayor (PDL more civic lists). In Emilia Romagna, two regional leaders of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement have brought their resignation in the face of public confronting a sort of referendum on the work that they carry out the election in the region (Ponzano, 2011). The decision on what should be their salary was also subjected to consultation. Did this participatory policy influence the movement’s local elections in Bologna on May 15, 2011, where the Five Star Movement scored a very good result (nearly 10% of the vote)? On June 24, 2011, Pierluigi Bersani, general secretary of PD, called and chaired the party’s national board focused on internal democracy; during the press conference, he announced that his party would soon organize the first party internal referendum (Collini, 2011).

After 2 years since the appearance on Facebook, dopary pages have thousands of friends (of different political affiliations, right and left), in addition to the thousands who have signed the petition online ( On March 24, 2011, the proposal of doparies was presented at the library of the Italian Chamber of Deputies by invitation of the PD parliamentary group. It is gaining increased interest in Italy (see and and beginning to be known in other countries: On May 27, 2011, the most widespread nonsports newspaper in Spain El Paìs has published a long article about primaries in Europe (Gomez & Prades, 2011), and doparies are the only new method mentioned. The first vice-president of the European Parliament Gianni Pittella wrote that politics needs to encourage direct participation in public life with doparies (Pittella, 2011).

In 2011 Calabretta published the first scientific paper about doparie. In the first five months of 2012, he and collaborators (researchers of Harvard Kennedy School of Government and of MIT) conducted the first experiment of online doparia (see Klein, Spada & Calabretta, 2012; see also here).


Participant Selection


Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction


Influence, Outcomes, and Effects


Analysis and Lessons Learned



Secondary Sources

External Links





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