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New electoral law in tandem with wider reforms say NCD

Junior partner successful in key demand

22 February, 13:32
New electoral law in tandem with wider reforms say NCD (ANSA) - Rome, February 22 - Premier Matteo Renzi's new government will not immediately move to reform an electoral law ruled unconstitutional last year but instead tie the reform to a wider Constitutional overhaul, requiring more time and including the abolition of the Senate, junior partner the New Centre Right (NCD) said Saturday, revealing one of its terms for backing Renzi.

Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi, a heavyweight in the party led by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, said the NCD had signed a deal envisaging that "the (reform of) the electoral law will go in tandem with institutional reforms and will work when the Senate is abolished".

He pointed out that the reform - fruit of a deal between Democratic Party leader Renzi and centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi - was "conceived for a single chamber, otherwise the reform doesn't work".

Renzi said this week that his government would seek to achieve one major reform every month until May, starting this month with a new election law to replace the dysfunctional old system that was declared unconstitutional in December.

An election-reform bill Renzi negotiated with Berlusconi last month - when he was accused by some of bringing the scandal-hit three-time premier back onto centre stage -is currently being examined in parliament.

The package sets entry bars for small parties to force them into alliances and limit their power of veto and a 15% winner's bonus for a coalition that gets 37% or more to ensure it has an unassailable majority.

As well as linking electoral reform to scrapping the Senate and other moves, the NCD is pushing to raise the bars of 4.5% in a Berlusconi-led coalition or a currently unattainable 8% on its own. In addition to the election-law deal, Renzi also agreed with Berlusconi to change the Constitution to strip the Senate of its lawmaking powers to make it easier to pass legislation, turning the Upper House into a leaner assembly of local-government representatives, and to abolish the country's provincial governments and bring some powers back to central government from the regions.

Renzi had said the election reform would be followed by labour reforms in March, public-administration reforms in April and fiscal reforms in May.

The other demands the NCD set for joining a Renzi-led administration were an economy minister who would not raise taxes and a justice minister to act as 'guarantor' for suspects' and defendants' rights.

Berlusconi, who is leading his reanimated Forza Italia (FI) party despite a ban from office on a tax-fraud conviction, said Saturday that a reform of Italy's slow-moving justice system was "absolutely urgent" to compete with other countries.

The 77-year-old three-time premier, who is appealing a conviction for paying an underage prostitute for sex and on trial for allegedly bribing a Senator to change sides, is expected to lead the centre right into the next election.

If Renzi achieves his goal of lasting until the end of the parliamentary term in 2018, Berlusconi would be 81.

Despite recent sparring, the NCD is expected to team up with FI, from which it split over Berlusconi's ouster from the Senate and bid to pull the plug on the previous government of Renzi's party colleague Enrico Letta.