Italy: Voters go to the polls in mayoral elections for largest cities | The Guardian

Italians have begun voting to choose mayors for the country’s largest cities in elections that will test the popularity of the prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and could produce a big breakthrough for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Five Star’s Virginia Raggi, a 37-year-old lawyer, hopes to become Rome’s first woman mayor and was ahead in opinion polls before their publication stopped 15 days before the vote on Sunday, as required by Italian law. Only in Turin is the candidate of Renzi’s Democratic party, incumbent mayor Piero Fassino, a clear favourite. Renzi has said the elections would have no repercussions for his left-right coalition government.

Italy: Parliament passes Renzi’s flagship reform, opening way for referendum | Reuters

The Italian parliament passed Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s flagship constitutional reform on Tuesday, opening the way for a referendum later this year on an overhaul aimed at giving Italy more stable governments. Renzi says the reform will increase political stability and end decades of revolving-door governments that have made it difficult to revive the country’s debt-ridden economy. He has promised to resign if the referendum goes against him. The reform effectively abolishes the Senate as an elected chamber and sharply restricts its ability to veto legislation. In the current system, the upper and lower houses of parliament have equal powers.

Italy: Renzi wins in most regions, but suffers bruising setback | Europe Online

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi suffered his first election setback Monday, as results of weekend regional elections showed ebbing support for his centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and gains for populist opposition forces. Voting took place in seven out of Italy‘s 20 regions on Sunday, during a bank holiday weekend that saw many voters stay away from polling booths. Turnout fell to 53.9 per cent, compared to 64.1 per cent five years ago. The PD prevailed in five out of seven races, but suffered a surprise loss in Liguria, in the north-west, and saw its overall share of the vote fall sharply compared to last year‘s European elections, when it scored a record 41 per cent.

Italy: Renzi stumbles in local elections | Reuters

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi suffered a setback in local elections on Sunday, with a weaker-than-expected showing by his centre-left bloc and a marked rise in support for the right-wing Northern League and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement. With 22 million Italians eligible to vote in the biggest test for Renzi since last year’s European elections, projections showed centre-left candidates well ahead in the central regions of Tuscany and Marche and the southern region of Puglia. The centre-left also led more narrowly in the Campania region around Naples and in Umbria, one of its traditional strongholds. However, in a blow for the 40-year-old premier, who had been accustomed to steamrollering his political rivals since seizing power after a party coup last year, the northwestern region of Liguria looked set to fall to centre-right after a leftist anti-Renzi candidate split the centre-left vote.

Italy: Parliament approves electoral reform bill | Xinhua

The Italian Lower House on Monday definitively approved a new electoral law, which was seen as a keystone of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s reform agenda. The new legislation will grant 55 percent of seats in parliament to the winning party in future elections, thus making it easier to produce a stable political majority. “We have kept our commitment, the promise has been fulfilled,” Renzi wrote on his twitter account, soon after the vote. The final approval from the Lower House came through a secret ballot after a daylong tense debate, and the bill was passed with 334 votes in favor, and 61 votes against.

Italy: Parliament starts possible final push on new electoral law | Europe Online

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.

Italy: Renzi faces party revolt over electoral law | Reuters

A senior parliamentary figure in Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD) resigned on Wednesday in protest over his proposed new electoral law, underlining unrest among government backbenchers. Roberto Speranza, the PD’s lower house parliamentary floor leader, told a meeting of the party late on Wednesday that he was stepping down because he disagreed with government policy. “I will be loyal to my group and to my party but I want to be just as loyal to my deep convictions,” he was quoted as saying by Italian media.

Italy: Renzi wins key battle as Senate approves election reform bill | Europe Online

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi won a key political battle on Tuesday after the Senate approved an election reform bill that had been bitterly resisted by dissenters within his ruling Democratic Party (PD). 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. Senators backed it in a 184-66 vote, with 2 abstentions, the chamber said on its website. Renzi celebrated the vote on Twitter. “Courage pays, reforms are going ahead,” he wrote on the micro-blogging website.

Italy: Bucking E.U. Tide, Italians Endorse Prime Minister | New York Times

If there was one bright spot for mainstream political parties in the elections for the European Parliament, it came, to the surprise of many, in Italy, where Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his Democratic Party received more than 40 percent of votes cast, a level no party has reached in any Italian election since 1958. Mr. Renzi, who ran on a pro-Europe, anti-austerity platform, easily beat his principal opponents, receiving roughly double the votes cast for the anti-establishment party of Beppe Grillo or for the party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who campaigned assiduously despite the restrictions imposed by a one-year sentence he is serving under house arrest. The vote strengthened Mr. Renzi’s resolve — and his clout — to push through a contested agenda in Italy. Analysts said it also seemed to show that voters were willing to reward established parties that initiate changes themselves, without the prodding of the political extremes.

Italy: Parliament inches towards approving electoral reform | Reuters

Italian lawmakers edged closer on Tuesday to approving a new electoral law seen as a test of new Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s ability to enact broad structural reforms needed to end government instability in Italy. Overhauling the complicated voting system blamed for leaving Italy with a deadlocked parliament has been a top priority for Renzi since he became leader of the main centre-left Democratic Party (PD) last year. The new law, designed after an agreement between Renzi and centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, is intended to produce a clear winner able to govern without the kind of unwieldy cross-party coalition left by last year’s inconclusive election.

Italy: Grillo cries foul over electoral reform plans | GlobalPost

Beppe Grillo, the former comic who leads Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, on Thursday hit out against plans to reform the country’s voting rules, describing them as tailor-made to block his party’s rise. “The only point of this electoral reform proposal is to block us because we are the danger to the system,” Grillo, whose party won a quarter of the vote at last year’s national election, told a gathering of the foreign press in Rome. The center-left’s dynamic new leader Matteo Renzi this week drew up a plan to change the voting rules blamed for Italy’s chronic political instability after reaching a widely contested deal with center-right leader and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The 5-Star Movement, which espouses an eclectic mix of green and anti-establishment policies and wants a referendum on Italy’s euro membership, has stayed in opposition since the February 2013 vote and refuses to collaborate with the left-right coalition government.

Italy: Renzi outlines electoral reform plan, defies critics | The Star Online

Italian centre-left leader Matteo Renzi promised on Monday to reform an electoral system blamed for creating chronic political deadlock, defying party critics who had attacked him for sealing a deal on the proposals with arch-enemy Silvio Berlusconi. The 39-year-old mayor of Florence, who won the leadership of the Democratic Party (PD) in December, said he would eliminate the fragmentation that has made it impossible for successive Italian governments to survive a full term in office. “We are saying no to giving small parties the power of holding us hostage,” he told a meeting of the PD party leadership, which approved the proposals by 111 votes in favour with 34 abstentions but no votes against, despite criticism from some on the left of the PD. “I don’t rule out alliances but only if they’re made for governing, not just winning an election,” he said, adding that settling the thorny issue of voting rules would clear the way for vital economic reforms.