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Controversy rages over electoral law reform proposals

Proposals from Renzi and Berlusconi stir debate

20 January, 12:21
Controversy rages over electoral law reform proposals (ANSA) - Rome, January 20 - Controversy raged Monday over proposed reforms to Italy's discredited election laws, particularly a package coming from a high-profile meeting between Matteo Renzi, the leader of the Democratic Party (PD), and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, head of Forza Italia (FI).

Discussions were scheduled for Monday on the issue of electoral reform, including recommendations from the weekend meeting, denounced by many because of Berlusconi's criminal fraud conviction and his expulsion from parliament late last year.

Renzi and Berlusconi met for more than two hours on Saturday at PD headquarters, and produced recommendations on improving the country's despised election law.

While Renzi has suggested he had achieved something significant by being "in tune" with Berlusconi with talks that could withstand full scrutiny "in the bright sunlight", critics in Renzi's own party have denounced the talks, saying they would only serve to rehabilitate Berlusconi's marred image and that anything coming from those talks would be tainted.

A deal on a new election system is essential, to replace the old one that was recently declared invalid by the Constitutional Court. It has been blamed for producing inconclusive results that make governing difficult, including last February's deeply divided results. Renzi and Berlusconi have reportedly agreed on a proposal modeled on the Spanish system, one of three proposals forwarded by Renzi but not accepted by many in the PD.

The proposals from Renzi and Berlusconi must make "a commitment to common sense, we must ensure good governance," said Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, leader of the New Centre Right (NCD) in a radio interview Monday morning. Renzi's drive to seek a deal with Berlusconi's party is seen to have come at the expense of other groups and has caused problems for Premier Enrico Letta's left-right government as it has upset the NCD, the main junior partner on the coalition.

Renzi also visited his predecessor Pier Luigi Bersani Sunday in a Parma hospital where Bersani had emergency brain surgery two weeks ago for a brain hemorrhage.

Renzi has defended his position on meeting with Berlusconi, saying it is only logical to try to get the agreement of the main opposition party for a new election law. He has also denied wanting to pass a new election law quickly so that he can scupper Letta's executive and provoke a fresh national vote, in the hope of winning and taking over as premier.