(By Christopher Livesay)
(ANSA) - Siracusa, March 5 - Premier Matteo Renzi said
Wednesday that his government's credibility was on the line over
a reform that would transform the Senate into a leaner assembly
of local-government representatives stripped of law-making
The aim of the move is to make passing legislation, and
therefore governing Italy, easier and help reduce the massive
cost of the country's political apparatus.
On Tuesday Renzi struck a deal with the leader of the
opposition centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party, ex-premier
Silvio Berlusconi, that limits another key reform - the
introduction of a new election law - to the Lower House.
This effectively obliges Renzi to pass the Senate reform,
otherwise Italy will find itself voting with two different
election laws the next time it goes to the polls, one for the
Lower House and another for the Upper House.
"The victory of my wager is at stake over the reform of the
Senate," Renzi said.
"If we are not able to do it, we'll have lost, even if we
get the economy going again.
"You cannot change the country if you don't start from the
political arena, the civil service, and the Constitutional
reform of the Senate.
"I respect the Senate, but that's precisely why I say that
the current perfect two-chamber parliament system is a brake on
Renzi is hopeful the new election law will be passed in the
Lower House this week and quickly win definitive approval in the
Senate shortly after.
Reforming the Senate, however, is expected to take over a
year as it requires amending the Constitution, which is a far
lengthier and more difficult process.
Both initiatives are seen as key factors to instill greater
stability in the country's notoriously shaky political system,
which has changed governments 62 times since Italy reconstituted
itself as a republic in 1946, the year after the fall of Fascist
dictator Benito Mussolini.
A year ago this time, parliament was just beginning a
two-month deadlock on the heels of inconclusive February
elections that produced no clear winner.
The standstill was ultimately brought to an end in April by
the reluctant formation of Enrico Letta's unprecedented
left-right coalition, which was plagued by infighting mostly at
the hands of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi.
But it was ultimately brought down by Renzi, the head of
Letta's own center-left Democratic Party (PD), who sparked a
party coup over Letta's perceived ineffectiveness.
Analysts say that, after coming to power on a fast-paced
and radical reform agenda, Renzi's Senate initiative could make
or break his fledgling government.