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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid