The Essential Tension. The Executive, the Administration and the Separation of Powers

By Giorgio Repetto

The separation between politics and administration is the outcome of several constitutional principles (such as those enshrined in Articles 95 and 97 of the Italian Constitution), the balance of which does not rely on a stable foundation, also because there is no conception of the role the administration should play vis-à-vis other powers. Based on a similar assumption, the article investigates the legislative rules governing the functional and structural separation between politics and the administration and highlights that the progressive enmeshment between these poles is two-sided: management choices (such as those delegated to fiscal agencies) are often influenced by political patronage, whereas political tasks (such as those entrusted to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers) are confined by the need to deal with concrete administrative decisions. Against this background, an effective separation of powers requires both safeguarding administrative bodies from intrusions by politics, and to preserve the capacity of public policies to steer administrative action. In this way, the separation of powers can operate as a useful instrument in avoiding the compounding of the weaknesses of both politics and the bureaucracy.