Italy: Political Reform Necessary Pre-Condition Of Economic Reform

Italy’s third successive unelected Prime Minister is pushing through electoral reform that make for stronger government’s going forward. There are two elements of the reform.  

Previously, Italy was proud of its “perfect bicameralism”, where Chamber of Deputies and the Senate shared power to initiate and block legislation. It had been shaped by the political interests of last elected Prime Minister, Berlusconi. Current Prime Minister Renzi seeks to emasculate the Senate, cutting its power to obstruct.  

The existing electoral law was ruled unconstitutional in 2013. The grounds for the ruling was the disproportionate seats given to the winners and prevented voters from picking a preferred candidate within party lists.

The electoral reform seeks to ensure stronger governments by ensuring that the winning party has 55% of the seats (340) in the Chamber of Deputies (630 seats). If no party wins 40% of the popular vote, a run-off of the top two parties will decide who gets the bonus seats. There are other measures, including the strengthening of party heads in picking some candidates. Provisions to ensure better gender balance have also been included. 

The electoral reform is proving controversial.  Berlusconi, who had previously supported the electoral reform efforts, has become more critical of the efforts as well as Renzi himself following the selection of Mattarella as President. That seemed to break the cooperative spirit.  

At the same time, the left-wing of the governing PD coalition, the SEL, was also critical of the electoral reforms. Small parties are at a disadvantage, and  it concentrates the power in the party heads.In order to secure passage of the different components of the electoral reform accepted, Renzi insisted on making them confidence votes. This parliamentary maneuver rankles friends and adversaries and is seen as heavy-handed.

Today the final vote in the Chamber of Deputies will be held.  It is not a confidence vote. However, the wrinkle is that it is a secret ballot, which may give Renzi’s critics within his coalition a free-pass to reject not just abstain, as many did in the confidence votes. A failure to pass the measure would likely spark a new political crisis in Italy. Some think that even if it does pass, President Mattarella may not sign the bill. This seems to be a long shot. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *