The South Tyrolean People's Party (German: Südtiroler Volkspartei, SVP; Italian: Partito Popolare Sudtirolese) is an ethnic catch-all party regionalist and autonomist political party in South Tyrol, northern Italy.
Founded on 8 May 1945, the SVP, aimed at representing South Tyrol's German-speaking population as well as Ladin speakers, is mainly Christian-democratic but nevertheless quite diverse, including conservatives, liberals and social democrats. The party gives special attention also to the interests of farmers, which make up a good deal of its electorate.
From 1948 to 2013 the party retained an absolute majority in the Provincial Council. Its best result was 67.8% in 1948, its worst 45.7% in 2013. The SVP had a long-lasting alliance with Christian Democracy (and the Italian Socialist Party) and, since 1994, with some of its successor parties, including the Italian People's Party and the Democratic Union of Alto Adige. In 1998 the SVP formed a coalition with the Democrats of the Left, replaced by the Democratic Party in 2008.
In 1989 Silvius Magnago, long-time SVP leader and Governor of South Tyrol since 1960, handed his office to Luis Durnwalder, who would keep the post until 2013. Under Durnwalder's long reign, the SVP continued to be the largest party in the Province, garnering more than 50% of the vote in most elections, despite crescent competition, chiefly from right-wing parties. Durnwalder managed to keep the party, often riven in internal disputes between opposing factions, united.
The SVP joined the European People's Party as an observer in 1993.
In the 1996 general election the SVP was affiliated to The Olive Tree (on the Populars for Prodi list, which included primarily the Italian People's Party), and also the 2001 general election (on its own list).
In the 2003 provincial election the SVP won 55.6% of the vote and 21 provincial councillors out of 35. Luis Durnwalder, President of the Province since 1989, was returned for the fourth time in office, at the head of a coalition composed by the Democrats of the Left and the Autonomist Union.
In the 2004 European Parliament election the SVP formed an electoral alliance with The Olive Tree. The party's share of votes fell for the first time down 50%, stopping at 46.7% (–9.3% from 1999, mainly because of the big win of the Greens (13.2%, +6.5%). However Michl Ebner was elected MEP with more than 90,000 preferences and a Green, Sepp Kusstatscher (a former member of the internal left of the SVP), was elected too.
Also in 2004 Siegfried Brugger, party secretary since 1992, stepped down and was replaced by Elmar Pichler Rolle.
In the 2006 general election the party was part of the victorious The Union coalition, and garnered three senators and four deputies, which included one for its sister-party in Trentino, the Trentino Tyrolean Autonomist Party (PATT).
In the 2008 general election the party obtained 44.3% (–9.1% from 2006 and –16.2% from 2001), returning only two deputies, Siegfried Brugger and Karl Zeller. In the Senate election, thanks to the plurality voting system, the SVP got its three senators, Helga Thaler Ausserhofer, Oskar Peterlini and Manfred Pinzger re-elected. This result was due both to the strong showing of The Freedomites (9.4%) on the right and the decision not to enter in alliance for the Chamber of Deputies either with the centre-left led by the Democratic Party (PD, 18.0%) or the centre-right led by The People of Freedom (PdL,16.0%).
Soon after the election, the SVP renewed its alliance with Roberto Nicco, the deputy from Aosta Valley, in the Chamber of Deputies, while forming a group in the Senate with the three senators of the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats, Antonio Fosson of the Valdostan Union, Mirella Giai of the Associative Movement Italians Abroad and three senators for life (Giulio Andreotti, Francesco Cossiga and Emilio Colombo).
In the 2008 provincial election the SVP won 48.1% of the vote in the Province (–7.5%), while its right-wing rivals (The Freedomites, South Tyrolean Freedom and Union for South Tyrol) gained a combined 21.5% of the vote. During the electoral campaign the party did not endorse its traditional counterparts in Trentino (the Daisy Civic List/Union for Trentino, UpT, and the PATT), in order not to hurt the relations with Lega Nord, whose Trentino section, Lega Nord Trentino, provided the opposition candidate, Sergio Divina. Despite rumors on an alliance with Lega Nord Alto Adige/Südtirol, after the election the SVP continued its alliance with the PD.
In April 2009 Richard Theiner, a member of the Arbeitnehmer ("employees") wing, was elected party chairman, due to an agreement between factions. Since then he was assisted by three deputy chairpersons: Thomas Widmann (Wirtschaft or "business" faction), Martha Stocker and Paola Bioc Gasser (representative of the Ladin section). The latter was replaced by Daniel Alfreider in 2012.
In the 2009 European Parliament election, due to the absence of its rival parties on the right, the SVP won 52.1% of the vote, electing Herbert Dorfmann.
The SVP contested the 2013 general election as part of the centre-left coalition, Italy. Common Good. Some long-serving MPs, notably Siegfried Brugger and Helga Thaler Ausserhofer, chose not to run for re-election and the party selected its candidates through a primary election.
In the general election the SVP won 44.2% of the provincial vote (–0.1% from 2008) and, being part of the coalition winning the national majority premium, obtained five deputies: Albrecht Plangger, Renate Gebhard, Daniel Alfreider, PATT's Mauro Ottobre and Manfred Schullian. For the Senate, the SVP ran alone in the constituencies of Merano and Brixen, winning both: in Merano outgoing deputy Karl Zeller took 53.5%, while in Brixen Hans Berger 55.4%. The SVP, in alliance with the PD, the UpT and the PATT, contributed also to the election of centre-left or autonomist candidates in the constituency of Bolzano and in those of Trentino.
On 21 April, in a party primary, the SVP selected Arno Kompatscher as its head of the list for the 2013 provincial election, in place of Durnwalder. Kompatscher, 42-year-old mayor of Völs am Schlern, won 82.4% of the vote, while former SVP leader Elmar Pichler Rolle a mere 17.6%.
In the October election the SVP won 45.7% of the vote in the Province (–2.4%) and lost its 65-year-long absolute majority. Both the German right-wing parties (whose combined share of the vote was 27.2%, +5.7%) and the Greens (8.7%, +2.9%) gained votes. Kompatscher obtained more than 80,000 preference votes and was set to be appointed Governor by the Provincial Council. Its coalition government included, as usual the PD.
In May 2014 Richard Theiner was replaced by Philipp Achammer as party's chairman. Along with Daniel Alfreider, the new vice-chairpersons are Zeno Christanell and Angelika Wiedmer. Kompatscher and 28-year-old Achammer formed an entirely new leadership team and represented the party's renewal.
In the 2014 European Parliament election the SVP won 48.0% of the vote in the Province and Dorfmann was re-elected to the European Parliament.
The SVP is an example of catch-all party. Its ideology ranges from Christian democracy to social democracy, due to the virtual absence of a true social-democratic rival party in the region. In German-speaking valleys the SVP has almost no opposition, apart from The Freedomites, South Tyrolean Freedom and Citizens' Union for South Tyrol on the right and the Greens on the left.
In the years the SVP suffered many splits reflecting the diverse composition of the party (Tyrolean Homeland Party, Social Progressive Party of South Tyrol and Social Democratic Party of South Tyrol) and many SVP leading members left the party in order to join other parties, notably including Alfons Benedikter, a right-winger who launched the Union for South Tyrol in 1989, Christian Waldner, a conservative liberal who launched The Freedomites in 1992, Sepp Kusstatscher, a leftist who joined the Greens in 1999, and finally Roland Atz, a right-winger who switched to Lega Nord Alto Adige/Südtirol in 2008. The Party of Independents/Freedom Party of South Tyrol, the South Tyrolean Homeland Federation, the Union for South Tyrol and The Freedomites can thus be all considered splits of the SVP.
Within the party it is possible to identify three main internal factions:Landwirtschaft (Agriculture), representing the interests of farmers; the faction, which had in Luis Durnwalder, Governor from 1989 to 2013, its main representative in government, notably includes Herbert Dorfmann and Hans Berger.
Wirtschaft (Economy), representing small business; the faction is led by Gerhard Brandstätter and notably includes Helga Thaler Ausserhofer, a conservative, Manfred Pinzger, Karl Zeller, Thomas Widmann and Dieter Steger; Arno Kompatscher wields strong support among the faction.
Arbeitnehmer (Labour), the social-democratic faction and political arm of the Union of South Tyrolean Independent Trade Unions (ASGB); the faction, recently led by Reinhold Perkmann, Rosmarie Pamer, and Cristoph Gufler, notably includes Oskar Peterlini, the most left-wing SVP member in the Italian Parliament so far, Richard Theiner and Renate Gebhard.
Siegfried Brugger and Elmar Pichler Rolle, who led the party in 1992–2004 and 2004–2009 respectively, are centrist figures who worked for preserving party unity. In order to prevent the break-up of the party along right-left lines, in 2008 Perkmann, leader of the Arbeitnhemer, proposed a "federal reform" of the party in order to preserve its catch-all nature and simultaneously give more autonomy to its internal factions, which have now an official status in party organization. The result was a mild reform of the party and the election to the party leadership in 2009 of a ticket composed by a leading member of the Arbeitnehmer, Richard Theiner, and a leading member of the Wirtschaft faction, Thomas Widmann, plus Martha Stocker, a close ally of Durnwalder.
The factional divisions between party members were reflected also on the vote of confidence on the Berlusconi IV Cabinet: Pinzger and Thaler Ausserhofer abstained, while Brugger, Zeller and Peterlini voted against. This kind of divisions continued during the legislature, with senators, excluding Peterlini, supporting some of the government's policies and deputies often opposing the same measures.
The Young Generation (Junge Generation, JG) is the youth movement of the party, including all members at the age of 14 to 30.
The SVP is an observer member of the European People's Party (EPP), and its MEP sits in the EPP Group in the European Parliament.
The electoral results of the SVP in South Tyrol since 1992 are shown in the table below.Chairman: Erich Amonn (1945–1948), Josef Menz-Popp (1948–1951), Toni Ebner (1951–1952), Otto von Guggenberg (1952–1954), Karl Tinzl (1954–1956), Toni Ebner (1956–1957), Silvius Magnago (1957–1991), Roland Riz (1991–1992), Siegfried Brugger (1992–2004), Elmar Pichler Rolle (2004–2009), Richard Theiner (2009–2014), Philipp Achammer (2014–present)
Honorary chairman: Silvius Magnago (1991–2010)
Secretary: Josef Raffeiner (1945–1947), Otto von Guttenberg (1947–1952), Albuin Forer (1952–1953), Vinzenz Stötter (1953–1954), Ivo Perathoner (1954–1957), Hans Stanek (1957–1965), Josef Atz (1965–1978), Bruno Hosp (1978–1989), Hartmann Gallmetzer (1989–1997), Thomas Widmann, (1997–2004), Michael Mühlberger (2004), Alexander Mittermair (2004–2009), Philipp Achammer (2009–2013), Martin Alber (2013–2014), Manuel Massl (2014–present)