Italian Senate votes to curb own power

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. AFP PHOTO

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. AFP PHOTO

ROME: Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was poised for a historic victory Tuesday as the Senate votes to relinquish most of its power in a revolutionary move to end decades of political instability.

Senators are expected to vote to cut their own number from 315 to 100 and effectively end their ability to bring down the government — a safeguard put in place after World War II to prevent the return of Fascism.

“It’s a great victory for Matteo Renzi . . . it will show Italy and Europe that he is able to reform an irreformable country,” Roberto D’Alimonte, political science professor at Rome’s Luiss University, told AFP.

“The reform will simplify the formation of governments, the passing of laws, reduce the power of lobbies and make parliament more accountable,” he said.

The youthful Renzi has made streamlining the country’s governance by taming parliament’s second chamber — which currently has the powers to delay and block legislation — one of the keystones of his mandate.

Under the current system, the two branches of government have equal weight. Transforming the Senate into a small chamber of regional lawmakers would stop bills getting bogged down in a back-and-forth between the chambers.

It would also bring an end to the political musical chairs that has produced 63 different administrations since 1946.

“It will be a change no government before him has been able to carry out,” said Sergio Fabbrini, director of the Luiss School of Government, noting that the first commission to reform the bicameral system was set up in 1983.

Italy is currently the only European country, apart from Romania, in which the government needs to get votes of confidence in both chambers.

‘Reform everyone wanted’
The win would be a boost for Renzi, who is keen to refocus attention on Italy’s economic prospects following a period of party infighting and a corruption scandal which forced Rome’s mayor, a member of his Democratic Party, to resign.

The country, which pulled out of a three-year recession at the start of the year, has been enjoying a balmy period of recovery, with the unemployment rate falling in August to a two-year low of 11.9 per cent.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) last week said Italy was experiencing “stronger than expected growth” and revised up its GDP estimates to a 0.8 percent expansion in 2015 and 1.3 percent in 2016.

The ambitious Renzi, 40, says his reforms are the reason — in particular a package to shake up the labor market that was welcomed by the business world but bitterly denounced by Italy’s once powerful trade unions.

Next on the list for the former mayor of Florence is transforming Italy’s snail-paced judicial system and schools.



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