News / Europe

Italian PM: If Senate Reform Blocked, I'll Quit

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gestures during a news conference at Chigi Palace in Rome, March 31, 2014.
Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gestures during a news conference at Chigi Palace in Rome, March 31, 2014.
Reuters
— Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi tied his political future on Monday to a reform package aimed at creating more stable government by stripping the upper house of parliament of key functions and concentrating power in the lower chamber.
 
In the latest step of his ambitious reform drive, cabinet signed off on a bill to transform the Senate into a non-elected regional chamber without the power to approve budgets or hold votes of no-confidence in a government.
 
The constitutional reforms will have no direct impact on Italy's stricken economy, still struggling to overcome its worst postwar recession and straining under a two trillion euro ($2.8 trillion) public debt.
 
But Renzi, Italy's third prime minister in a year, has said that without a change in the system, the country risks being stuck with a rotating series of short-lived governments incapable of passing meaningful economic reforms.
 
If the change to the Senate, which will require a change in the constitution, is blocked in parliament, he said it would be a sign that he had failed in politics and he would “accept the consequences”.
 
“I'm not here to occupy a seat. I'm here to try to change Italy,” Renzi, head of the center-left Democratic Party (PD), told a news conference after the cabinet meeting.
 
“If you want to ask a citizen, an entrepreneur, a mother, a worker to take a risk and you're not willing to take a risk yourself, you're not credible,” he said.
 
The 39-year-old former mayor of Florence became Italy's youngest prime minister after a party coup in February, taking over the unwieldy cross-party coalition formed after last year's deadlocked general election.
 
Bloated Political System
 
The bill would scrap a system that grants equal powers to the Senate and the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, but elects them by different rules, making it hard for any group to win a stable overall majority.
 
The Senate would become a weakened regional chamber made up of city mayors and a handful of specially appointed members. It would review regional and constitutional issues but would no longer be able to bring down a government. It would have fewer than half of its current 320 members.
 
The reform is a key part of a wider drive to slim down Italy's bloated political apparatus, which comprises 950 Senators and deputies - almost twice as many as the 535-strong U.S. Congress - as well as many thousands of local politicians.
 
Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who agreed the broad outlines of the package with Renzi last month, has offered the backing of his center-right Forza Italia party.
 
But despite loud public calls for change from across the political spectrum, the reform is likely to meet strong opposition from many senators, who will be asked to scrap their own jobs.
 
Another proposal, to cut layers of local government, had to be forced through the Senate last week with a confidence vote after it ran into heavy opposition in committee.
 
Changing the status of the Senate is bound up with a separate reform of the electoral law intended to favor strong coalitions in the lower house, although parliament has been wrangling over which of the two reforms should be passed first.
 
Renzi said he wanted the Senate reform to receive preliminary approval before European parliamentary elections on May 25, although its final passage will require a constitutional change expected to take as much as a year to complete.

($1 = 0.7256 euros)

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid