Italy’s Renzi Wins Senate Support for Electoral Reforms

A vote in the Italian Senate paves the way for an overhaul of the country’s electoral system.

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers questions from reporters in Rome, April 8, 2014
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers questions from reporters in Rome, April 8, 2014 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, won his Senate’s approval for an amendment to a new electoral law on Wednesday, paving the way for an overhaul of the voting system that is designed to make the country more governable.

Members of both Renzi’s Partito Democratico and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia backed the reforms.

Some Democrats joined the opposition in voting against the measure, however, refusing to support any law that was also advocated by Berlusconi, their former nemesis.

Berlusconi and Renzi agreed last year to jointly enact constitutional changes.

Their parties were forced into a coalition after the anti-establishment Five Star Movement prevented either from winning a majority in 2013.

Berlusconi later quit the coalition but the government was saved when centrist rightwingers under Angelino Alfano, the interior minister, split from Forza Italia and established their own party, Nuovo Centrodestra.

The electoral reforms would give a majority of the seats in the lower house to whichever party or bloc gets more than 40 percent of the votes. If no party wins 40 percent in a first voting round, a runoff would be called. The threshold for any party to enter parliament would be 3 percent.

Reforms enacted last year will also reduce the upper chamber to a body of regional deputies without the ability to block legislation.

The two chambers currently have equal powers. Renzi’s party commands an absolute majority in the lower house but not in the Senate where small centrist and conservative parties hold the balance of power.

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