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Court releases reasons for judging law unconstitutional

Government says Italy's election rules to be reformed in 2014

14 January, 11:24
Court releases reasons for judging law unconstitutional (ANSA) - Rome, January 14 - Italy's parliament is legitimate and can continue to operate even though existing electoral law is unconstitutional and must be changed, the Constitutional Court said in its written judgment released Tuesday.

Last month, the court rejected the election law but did not immediately file the complete reasons behind its decision. The detailed reasoning behind its December 4 ruling has now been made public on the court's website.

Since that ruling against Italy's "Porcellum" or "pig-sty" electoral law, Premier Enrico Letta has promised to change the rules concerning voting before European Parliament elections at the end of May. Late last year, Letta also pledged that all Constitutional reforms will be put to a referendum.

The current law struck down by the Constitutional Court has been widely judged responsible for making election results uncertain, as happened in last February's inconclusive vote.

The court ruled that a mechanism in the existing law granting a huge bonus to the winner in the House election was contrary to the fairness doctrine enshrined in Italy's postwar founding document, its Constitution.

Second, and for the same reasons, the court ruled against a system that prevents voters from picking their representatives in constituencies.

Since the law was introduced in 2006, party leaders have put hand-picked candidates on so-called 'blocked lists' which were then voted on, with the top names entering parliament according to the percentage of the vote won.

Letta, of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), has made electoral law reform a top priority for his smaller but more cohesive government formed late last year with the New Centre Right (NCD), a splinter group from Silvio Berlusconi's recently disbanded People of Freedom (PdL) party.

The NCD broke away when it refused to sink Letta after the PD insisted on applying an anti-corruption law to oust Berlusconi from the Senate on a tax-fraud conviction late last year.

Berlusconi's revived Forza Italia (FI) party then went into opposition.

Many officials have rejected claims from FI and the biggest opposition group, former comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), that parliament had lost its legitimacy because of the Constitutional Court's ruling.

"Parliament is fully legitimate, the court itself does not call that into doubt," Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said after the initial ruling.

He stressed that, in its ruling, the court said it was up to parliament to frame a new law.

The Porcellum worked against any party getting a solid majority in the Senate, which has equal lawmaking status with the House.

Reforming the Senate so it does not have equal lawmaking status with the House is also one of the priorities for the government in 2014, Letta has said.