This quote from Massimo D’Alema (then Leader of the Democrats of the Left) confirms a notable change in the political climate in Italy, with a definitive isolation of the judiciary from the political class. As we will see in this article, the apparent triumph of the ‘revolution of the judges’ (which in the early 1990s led to talk of a ‘Second Republic’ in Italy) proved to be of short duration. While the political parties directly involved in corruption have themselves collapsed, the political class has only partially ‘renewed’ itself, with a large number of politicians being ‘recycled’ from the parties of the ‘First Republic’. Even the elements of ‘renewal’ in the political class have

not led to a greater concern for ethical behaviour in the public sphere. Instead the tension between the judiciary and the political class has grown precisely around members of the ‘new’ centre-right political class, in particular the figure of Silvio Berlusconi. Yet the overall effect has been to weaken (rather than strengthen) the political defence of an autonomous judiciary by exponents of the centre-left coalition. In fact, it appears that between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s the question of political corruption was intentionally demoted as a political priority by means of a ‘bi-partisan’ agreement. The ‘Clean Hands’ investigations do not seem to have led to the moral

regeneration of Italian politics. All the indicators available on the diffusion of corruption instead signal high and constant levels. In this article, we will underline that as ‘Clean Hands’ opened a window of opportunity to overcome the various ‘anomalies’ of Italian politics, the political class has been unable or unwilling to seize the moment. Promises of substantial change followed these scandals, but any concrete reform proposals foundered, usually in the legislative phase but otherwise during their implementation. Not only is the balance of action against corruption rather meagre, but profound divisions have emerged in the relationship between the judiciary and the ‘new’ political class, with frequent attempts by the latter to restrict the autonomy of the former.