Italy’s Renzi Wins Conservative Backing for Senate Reforms

Italy’s two largest conservative parties support the prime minister’s plan to weaken the Senate.

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi has won support from the country’s two largest conservative opposition parties — Forza Italia and the Northern League — to weaken the Senate.

His reforms would take away the upper chamber’s ability to block legislation and should make it easier for a single party or alliance to win a parliamentary majority.

Weaker chamber

Currently an elected body, the Senate would be reduced to an assembly of regional deputies. They would only be able to delay laws and propose amendments anymore.

The outlines of the reform were agreed with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia in January, but the former prime minister repeatedly threatened to go back on the deal.

Next: electoral reform

A separate reform of the country’s voting system — which is widely blamed for making Italy so difficult to govern — is still up in the air.

Representatives of Renzi’s Democratic Party are due to meet with members of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement next week to discuss an overhaul. The group earlier refused to take part in discussions.

In January, Berlusconi and Renzi proposed to introduce a 5-percent election threshold as well as runoffs in case no single party or bloc wins an absolute majority. The threshold was later lowered to 4.5 percent, which is almost exactly the support Renzi’s coalition partner, Nuovo Centrodestra, got in May’s European election.

Nuovo Centrodestra, led by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, split from Berlusconi’s Forza Italia last year when the latter left the government.