Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Monday moved one step closer to passing a constitutional reform aimed at streamlining the lawmaking process when the lower house of parliament approved the bill in its fourth reading. Renzi has staked his political future on the reform to cut the size and powers of the upper house Senate. The Chamber of Deputies approved it by 367 votes to 194. Under the lengthy procedures required for constitutional changes, both houses now must pass the reform again. It will then face what promises to be a fiercely contested national referendum which Renzi hopes to hold in October.
Since taking office two years ago Renzi has piled political capital into the bill to effectively abolish the Senate as an elected chamber. He says this will make Italy more governable but his critics say it reduces democratic checks and balances.
It will cut the number of senators by two thirds, strip the Senate of its ability to bring down a government and sharply limit its scope to block legislation. It will also return to Rome some powers now held by the regional governments. Renzi has said he will quit if, in what he calls “the mother of all battles,” the reform is rejected in the referendum.