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Renzi stresses Senate reform, abolition of provinces

PD leader makes 'suggestions' for new govt pact

02 January, 14:31
Renzi stresses Senate reform, abolition of provinces (see previous).

(ANSA) - Rome, January 2 - Democratic Party (PD) leader Matteo Renzi on Thursday stressed the importance of stripping the Senate of its equal law-making status with the House as he unveiled a number of proposals for the government's upcoming reform agenda.

In Italy, unlike several other countries, laws have to be passed in the same form in both houses and an election winner must have a majority in both in order to rule.

The PD fell short of a Senate majority in February, leading to two months of stalemate and the current, unprecedented left-right government led by the PD's Enrico Letta.

Renzi said the Senate should be turned into a regional body.

He also underscored the importance of parliament carrying through on pledges to abolish Italy's provinces to cut political spending amid public anger over bloat and graft.

The proposals were framed as "suggestions" for a pact the PD is set to seal next week with its centre-right partner, the New Centre Right (NCD), a group led by Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano.

The NCD temporarily broke with former premier Silvio Berlusconi last month, refusing his bid to sink Letta because of the PD's insistence on applying an anti-corruption law to evict Berlusconi from the Senate over a tax-fraud conviction.

Letta is now supported by much more PD MPs than NCD ones, with Berlusconi having taken most of his supporters into opposition in his resurrected Forza Italia (FI) party.

Renzi also advanced three suggestions for a new electoral law.

While the abolition of the Senate's powers and the provinces is not contentious, parties have resumed long-time wrangling over election reform since the last law, blamed for February's inconclusive result, was judged unconstitutional last month.

They received fresh urging from President Giorgio Napolitano to hammer out a new electoral law this year in the head of State's year-end address to the nation.

The PD, boosted by the dynamic 38-year-old Renzi, has a slight poll lead with leftist allies over the centre right composed of FI, the NCD and the populist Northern League.

The date of the next election is uncertain but most pundits think Letta should be able to make it through 2014 if he enacts promised reforms and lifts the economy out of its longest postwar recession.

Berlusconi, 77, who has won three elections thanks to charisma and canny campaigning, has vowed to lead the centre right to victory over Renzi, who has been likened to Tony Blair.