Trasformismo was the method of creating a flexible, centrist coalition of government which isolated the extremes of the left and the right in Italian politics after the unification but before the rise of Mussolini and Fascism. One of the more successful politicians was Giovanni Giolitti who succeeded in attaining office 5 separate times in 20 years. Under his influence, the Liberals did not develop as a structured party. They were, instead, a series of informal personal groupings with no formal links to political constituencies.
At this time middle class politicians more concerned with achieving deals with each other and less about political philosophies and principles moved in and out of office. Large coalitions were formed, with members being bribed to join them. The liberals, the main political group, were tied together by informal "gentleman's agreements", but these were always in matters of enriching themselves. Indeed the actual governing did not seem to happen all that much, but since only 2 million men had franchise, most of these wealthy landowners they did not have to concern themselves with such things as improving the lives of the people they were supposedly serving through democracy.
The process was initiated by Agostino Depretis, the Italian Prime Minister in 1883, who was a member of the Constitutional Left party. He moved to the right and reshuffled his government to include Marco Minghetti's Conservatives. This was a move Depretis had been considering for a while before 1883. The aim was to ensure a stable government that would avoid weakening the institutions by extreme shifts to the left or right. Depretis felt that a secure government could ensure calm in Italy.
However trasformismo fed into the debates that the Italian parliamentary system was failing and weak, it ultimately became associated with corruption. It was seen as the sacrifice of principles and policies for short term gain.
The system of trasformismo was a little loved one and seemed to be creating a gulf between 'Legal' (parliamentry and political) Italy, and 'Real' Italy. The politicians became increasingly isolated. This system brought almost no advantages, illiteracy remained the same in 1912 as before the unification era, and sanitary squalor with economic backwardness continued to prevent the rural areas from becoming any better.
transformism in German: Trasformismo
transformism in Italian: Trasformismo (politica)