Italy to hold Constitutional Referendum
On Sunday, December 4th, Italian will hold a Constitutional Referendum. If passed by the voters, this referendum would mark the greatest change to the Italian government since the Second World War. In fact, the fate of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s administration could be in jeopardy if the referendum does not pass. The referendum requires a simple 50% majority to pass.
There are many provisions of this referendum, but perhaps the biggest change would be reducing the power of the Italian Senate. Currently Italy, like the United States has a bi-cameral legislature, with the Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. Under the current constitution, both bodies have equal legislative power. Any legislation must be approved by both bodies, word for word. As a result, it often takes years for legislation to be passed. In addition, the Senate would be reduced from 315 members to 100. This should prevent the Senate obstructing legislation that has been approved by the Chamber of Deputies.
Originally Renzi said that he would resign if this proposal were to fail. He has since pull back from this pledge and indicated that he intends to stay in power if it does not pass. However, if it fails, this could trigger new parliamentary elections.
The proposal is opposed by the 5-Star Movement. This is the populist party stated by Beppe Grillo which declares that it is neither right or left, but an anti-establishment party that has been encouraged in their opposition efforts by the recent election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. In fact, the 5-Star Party and the Northern League have hinted that if the referendum fails they may call for an election to determine if Italy stays in the European Union or withdraws like Great Britain has recently decided to leave.
If passed the referendum could promote real stability in the Italian political system. Currently there are 22 political parties in Italy. This has resulted in 64 governments since 1945. So any party that gets a plurality, must team with other parties to obtain a majority to form a government. Under the proposal that will be voted on, any party that receives 40% of the vote would be able to form a government.
The referendum has many other provisions; this is brief primer to simplify the major constitutional changes being proposed. An informed electorate for all democracies. and I encourage those that will be voting to research the proposals in the referendum and make an informed decision when they vote next month.