With Silvio Berlusconi now out of parliament, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta is under pressure to overhaul a voting law blamed for dragging Italy into political and economic stalemate after the last election. Letta was appointed to lead an unwieldy government of left and right forces after a vote in February this year yielded no clear winner. When he named the 47-year-old centre-left politician, President Giorgio Napolitano gave him the task of overhauling a dysfunctional political and justice system that has stifled Italy’s economic growth for years. Letta’s administration was supposed to repair the system to prevent chronic political instability. The ripple effects of Berlusconi’s legal battles – in particular the lead-up and aftermath of the former premier’s conviction for fraud in August – largely sidetracked the government during its first seven months, however. That disruption has ostensibly subsided after Berlusconi’s ejection from the Senate.
Now leading a smaller alliance made up of his centre-left Democratic Party, a breakaway group of rebels from Berlusconi’s Forza Italia movement and a few centrists, Letta has made it clear that electoral reform is key.
A new push to change the law, described by Letta as an “absolute evil”, comes with the constitutional court also due to hear a challenge this week on the grounds that the system deprives voters of their constitutional rights to fair representation and a working system of government.