There is a strong army tradition in Piemonte; since the 1800s its soldiers have dominated the officer corps of the national army. This dominance was also apparent in the upper ranks of the civil service throughout the nineteenth century. Although regarded as "honest" in its aims and efforts, this Piemontese dominance in the early state was not suited to the task of developing a modern state structure. The system's reliance on personal contacts and the "politics of influence" made the transition to a twentieth-century bureaucratic model of government difficult.
Modern Italy has been described as possessing a "party-dominated" political system, driven more by the influential leaders of the political parties than by formal governmental Institutions. Characteristic of such a system is a strong reliance on patronage. Until the mid-twentieth century, government was based on a nineteenth-century document (the Albertine Statute) that originally provided the constitutional basis for the then Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia and later for the united Italian state. In 1948, a new constitution established a parliamentary republic for all of Italy. Under this constitution the head of state (president) occupied a primarily ceremonial office. Decision making was the province of a Council of ministers, and legislation was to be the responsibility of two houses of parliament.
Strong local government has a long history in Italy. The local unit of governing is the commune, which consists of an urban center plus its surrounding area. The commune is governed by an elected municipal council. Within the commune, many governmental services and decision-making powers are vested in neighborhood councils. Thus, much of day-to-day government is quite decentralized.
Regional government—based on regional councils—takes two forms in Italy. Five regions (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Val d'Aosta) have extensive autonomy granted them by the Italian constitution. All the others, including Piemonte, are "ordinary" regions and are more directly subject to national authority.