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Meloni government seeks constitutional reform

Italian politics
By SEC Newgate team
28 November 2023

By Ludovico Grandi (SEC Newgate Italy)

Giorgia Meloni’s government has one of the vastest majorities in the history of the Italian Republic and the Cabinet recently approved a constitutional reform which will – according to Meloni – “mark the beginning of the Third Republic” and begun yesterday its approval process in Parliament

The reform introduces the direct election of the Prime Minister - currently, the Italian electoral system allows citizens to choose the party - and indicates the majority prize, delegating to an electoral law yet to be passed the harmonization of the current system with the new rules.

Another article states that -in the event of a vote of no confidence - the President of the Republic may appoint another parliamentarian from the same majority coalition.

According to Prime Minister Meloni, the reform aims to stabilize historically unstable Italian governments. Minister for Institutional reforms Casellati made it clear that the draft will “preserve the Powers of the President of the Republic who remains and must remain a key figure of national unity”.

Oppositions on the contrary negatively commented the reform as it “limits prerogatives of the President of the Republic” as Secretary of Democratic Party Elly Schlein said.

5 Star Movement member Roberto Fico, who now leads the party as President of the party’s Guarantee Committee, is not convinced that the reform will bring stability to the Italian government system, on the contrary it will accentuate its imbalances.

Critics came from Carlo Calenda (Azione) who underlined the singularity of this reform which has never been used anywhere in the world.

Italia Viva's position is more wait-and-see. Matteo Renzi's party is open to a reform that would give greater stability to government action and the fiduciary relationship between it and the electorate. On these principles, once the draft arrives in Parliament, the party's position will be established.

Jurists’ opinions are different: some believe a new balance of powers must be sought, others simply see the acknowledgement of a practice that has existed for some time, that of indicating already before the elections who will lead the country should the party win. The former President of the Constitutional Court Silvana Sciarra - the body responsible for verifying the adherence of laws to constitutional dictates - said in a recent interview that “the most delicate point is to maintain a balance between the powers that do not abide by  the role of guarantee attributed to the President of the Republic and the Constitutional Court”. The risk, in her view, is to “weaken the President's guarantee function”.

Although many governments over the years have bet big on constitutional reforms, according to political expert and LUISS University of Rome lecturer Lorenzo Castellani, this one has learned the lesson of former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi not to bet big on such a reform, and some say that Meloni herself has unwillingly given the green light.

The reform will now start its approval process in Parliament, with two separate votes three months apart in the Chamber of Deputies as well as in the Senate. After these votes, the reform will have to be submitted to a referendum if the second vote in each of the two bodies does not exceed two-thirds of the votes in favor.