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Renzi's election plan hits hurdle over quotas for women MPs

FI says has doubts about Constitutionality

10 March, 13:48
Renzi's election plan hits hurdle over quotas for women MPs (ANSA) - Rome, March 10 - Premier Matteo Renzi's hopes of getting a bill for a new election law approved by the Lower House by Tuesday suffered a setback on Monday when a member of Silvio Berlusconi's opposition centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party said it was against the possibility of including minimum quotas for women MPs.

The bill is the result of a deal that Renzi, the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), struck with Berlusconi before he became premier last month.

"Forza Italia is against minimum quotas for women MPs because it would be a law with evident problems of Constitutionality," said FI's Francesco Paolo Sisto, who was one of the lawmakers proposing the election-system bill. As a result, the House suspended work on the bill until 14.30 local time, despite the opposition of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), the Northern League and the left-wing SEL party.

After FI's announcement, the government said it would let parliament decide what to do on the issue of female quotas. The Renzi-Berlusconi deal did not address moves to have greater sexual equality in parliament, although there had been calls from many parts of the political spectrum for them to be incorporated into the new system.

The new election law is set to replace the previous system that was declared unconstitutional in December and was blamed for the inconclusive outcome to last year's general election. The new bill sets bars for small parties to force them into alliances, limiting their veto power, and provides a 15% winner's bonus for a coalition that gets 37% to ensure it has a working majority.

The aim is to prevent the havoc that followed the February 2013 national election.

After two months of deadlock, the PD teamed up in an unnatural alliance with centre right led by Renzi's predecessor and party colleague Enrico Letta.

That government was plagued by instability and ultimately collapsed after 10 months when Renzi pulled the plug on it, saying he could do better at pushing through much-needed reforms with the same alliance Letta had had since November, when Berlusconi's party pulled its support for the administration.

Renzi, Italy's youngest premier at 39, is looking for a fast conclusion to the election bill, which will go to the Senate after approval in the House, to back this claim.

Last week Renzi and Berlusconi agreed that the effect of the new election law should be limited to the Lower House.

This effectively obliges Renzi to pass reform of the Senate, 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. Renzi and Berlusconi have a deal to change to Constitution to transform the Senate into a leaner assembly of local-government representatives stripped of law-making powers.

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.