The PdL, launched by Silvio Berlusconi on 18 November 2007, was initially a federation of political parties, notably including Forza Italia and National Alliance, which participated as a joint election list in the 2008 general election. The federation was later transformed into a party during a party congress on 27–29 March 2009.
The party’s leading members included Angelino Alfano (national secretary), Renato Schifani, Renato Brunetta, Roberto Formigoni, Maurizio Sacconi, Maurizio Gasparri, Mariastella Gelmini, Antonio Martino, Giancarlo Galan, Maurizio Lupi, Gaetano Quagliariello, Daniela Santanchè, Sandro Bondi and Raffaele Fitto.
The PdL formed Italy’s government from 2008 to 2011 in coalition with Lega Nord. After having supported Mario Monti‘s technocratic government in 2011–2012, the party was part of Enrico Letta‘s government with the Democratic Party, Civic Choice and the Union of the Centre. Alfano functioned as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior.
In June 2013 Berlusconi announced Forza Italia’s revival and the PdL’s transformation into a centre-right coalition. On 16 November 2013 the PdL’s national council voted to dissolve the party and start a new Forza Italia; the assembly was deserted by a group of dissidents, led by Alfano, who had launched the New Centre-Right the day before.
In the run-up to the 2006 general election there was talk among the House of Freedoms coalition’s member parties on merging into a “united party of moderates and reformers”. Forza Italia (FI), National Alliance (AN) and the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats (UDC) all seemed interested in the project. Soon after the election, however, UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini, who had been a reluctant coalition partner, started to distance from its historical allies. Another party of the coalition, Lega Nord (LN), showed no interest in the idea, because of its character as a regionalist party.
On 2 December 2006, during a big rally of the centre-right in Rome against Romano Prodi‘s government, Silvio Berlusconi proposed the foundation of a “freedom party”, stressing that centre-right voters were all part of a single “people of freedom”. On 21 August 2007 Michela Brambilla, president of the Clubs of Freedom (a grassroot group), registered the name and the symbol of the “Freedom Party” (Partito della Libertà) on Berlusconi’s behalf, but none of Berlusconi’s allies seemed interested in joining such a party and some leading FI dignitaries looked disappointed.
On 18 November 2007, Berlusconi claimed that his supporters had collected over 7 million signatures on an appeal demanding the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, to call a fresh general election. Shortly afterwards, from the running board of a car in a crowded Piazza San Babila in Milan, he announced that FI would soon merge or transform into a new “party of the Italian people”. The new course was thus called the “running board revolution” (rivoluzione del predellino) and this expression soon became very popular both among Berlusconi’s supporters and his adversaries.
At the beginning, the fate of FI remained unclear. Later, it was explained that the new party’s core would consist of FI, the Clubs of Freedom and other grassroots groups, and that some minor parties of the House of Freedoms would join too. AN leader Gianfranco Fini made very critical statements in the days after Berlusconi’s announcement, declaring the end of his support for Berlusconi as candidate for Prime Minister and that his party would not join the new party. Also UDC leader Casini criticized the idea from the start and seemed interested in an alternative coalition with Fini.