Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi hit a stumbling block in his attempt to overhaul the country’s political system this week when thirteen senators said they were “suspending themselves” from the ruling Democratic Party.
While Renzi was on a state trip in Asia, the senators rebelled against his plan to replace the elected upper chamber with one made up of regional deputies and presidential appointees.
Renzi still has the votes to push through his reforms, especially if former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi sticks by his commitment to support them.
But the party rebellion shows it might be more precarious than Renzi thought to ask the Senate to practically abolish itself.
Renzi struck a deal with Berlusconi before taking power in February to make it easier for large parties to win majorities in both houses of parliament.
Neither the left nor the right won a Senate majority in the most recent election, forcing them into a coalition that fractured when Berlusconi took Forza Italia into opposition in November.
Rebel conservatives, led by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, grouped together in a new party, Nuovo Centrodestra, to continue to support the government.
After a cabinet meeting on Friday, Renzi warned that the Democratic Party could not become “anarchic”. He accused the thirteen senators of seeking their “fifteen minutes of fame.”
“This isn’t a dictatorship,” Renzi told reporters. “But we want to be decisive and get things done.”
The prime minister is eager to enact economic and political reforms to make Italy both more competitive and more governable.
He appeared to have won a clear mandate for his program last month, when the ruling party got almost 41 percent support in European Parliament elections.