Renzi jubilant as House approves Constitutional reform bill

Package now returns to Senate

(ANSA) - Rome, January 11 - Premier Matteo Renzi was jubilant after his government's flagship bill to change the Constitution in order to overhaul Italy's slow, costly political machinery was approved by the Lower House on Monday. The bill returns to the Senate after being approved with 367 votes in favour, 194 against and five abstentions. The package includes the controversial transformation of the Senate into a leaner assembly of 100 local-government representatives with limited powers to save money and make passing legislation easier.
    Renzi has staked his political standing on getting the bill approved and has said a referendum will be held in the autumn to ratify the package once it is definitively approved.
    "Today was the fourth vote on the Constitutional reforms," Renzi said on his Facebook page. "A crushing majority while we wait to know how the public will vote in the autumn. "We are showing that nothing is impossible in Italy. Full steam ahead with confidence and courage".
    Also on Monday, the co-chair of an anti-reform committee in parliament said enough lawmakers are on board to request a separate referendum scrapping the package. "We have the certainty that at least 126 MPs will ask for the referendum" to strike down Renzi's Constitutional reforms, said MP Alfiero Grandi. The anti-reform committee was officially launched earlier in the day to prevent "2016 from becoming the year of the end of the Republic born 70 years ago," its supporters said. The anti-reform referendum is being promoted by Italian Left (SI) - a splinter from Renzi's Democratic party - and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S).