The Strategist

Italeave is not funny anymore

10/17/2016 - 16:38

The third in the last 15 years constitutional referendum will be held in Italy on December 4.

Beppe Grillo, picture by Niccolò Caranti
Beppe Grillo, picture by Niccolò Caranti
The project, proposed by Matteo Renzi’s government two years ago, have been ratified by both houses of the parliament. However, they couldn’t have gathered enough votes to reach "constitutional majority". In this case, according to the current constitution, the draft shall be submitted to a national referendum.

Essence of the reform

The project is planned to dramatically change work of the Senate, the upper house of parliament. Now the Senate and the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, are formed on the same principles (general elections) and largely double each other. At the same time, the Senate for life includes all former Presidents of the Republic, and if President considered any of the citizens worthful, they can also be included in there.

The new scheme converts "Senate of the Republic" in "Chamber of Regions". Instead of the senators elected just like MPs, the upper house will meet regional government representatives - mayors, councilors, etc. Those who remain, but no more than five people, will be appointed by the President personally. Thus, number of the Senate will be reduced from 315 to 100 people.

Political changes in Italy are not the rare occurrence. The successfully completed reform will bring the country closer to the European practice, when principles of forming the upper and lower chambers differ fundamentally.

However, what will happen if majority of participants in the referendum say "no"? In this case, Matteo Renzi, current Prime Minister and initiator of the reform, most likely will have to resign.

Fall of Renzi’s government will start a new round of political instability. This it is not uncommon in the country, but now the situation is much more complicated with financial and economic problems. This is not a secret that the Italians will vote not only to re-shape the Senate, but also for or against Renzi himself. Discussion of the Senate reform itself complies with the Italian political tradition, yet outcome of the referendum as a vote of confidence is very difficult to predict.

Defeat of the center-left Renzi, according to political experts, could lead to rise of anti-European political authorities, including Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement. Brexit referendum in the UK makes such a prospective completely unhumorous, contrary to the times when Grillo’s was political career just beginning.