What could be the final phase of legislative consideration of a controversial new electoral law – the passage of which Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has staked the survival of his government upon – began Monday in Italy‘s lower house of parliament. The so-called Italicum law is designed to put an end to political instability in Italy, a country that has had 63 governments in 69 years of republican history, and last suffered paralysis after a hung parliament result in the general elections of 2013. The new system would guarantee a 55-per-cent majority to election winners, but critics – including a minority of the ruling Democratic Party (PD) – argue this would give too much power to the executive, weakening parliamentary democracy.
Lawmakers are expected to debate and vote – first on motions claiming the law is unconstitutional, then on line-by-line amendments, finally on the whole package – until some point next week.
The key question is whether deputies will agree to make no changes to the law, so that their version matches the text approved by the Senate in January, and thus ensure its entry into force.
The alternative is an amended version, which will require its return to the upper chamber for further voting. This would delay the bill by several months and possibly kill it, since the government has only a slim majority in the Senate.
Renzi, who wants a quick approval with no changes, has threatened to call a confidence vote on the issue, effectively giving an ultimatum to PD rebels: either they back a law they do not like, or they oust their leader from power.