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Home English Renzi's disputed election-law plan lands in parliament

Renzi's disputed election-law plan lands in parliament


(By Christopher Livesay)
Rome, January 22 - A proposal to reform Italy's
discredited election law was held up before going to parliament
Wednesday amid controversy over a deal struck last weekend with
ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and the bill's architect Matteo
Renzi, head of the center-left Democratic Party (PD).
The proposal was sent to be formalized in an evening
session within the Constitutional affairs committee, which will
then vote on the bill and send it to the floor on January 29.
It was postponed earlier in the day over concerns from the
regionalist Northern League party, which has a strong
constituency and a number of mayors and governors in the north,
but remains relatively small on the national level, and could be
squeezed out of parliament under a higher 8% votes threshold
imposed by the new bill.
"There's the issue with the League," said PD House whip
Emanuele Fiano.
Politicians were negotiating a clause that would make
exemptions for the League, but such plans were ultimately ruled
The Constitutional affairs committee said there were also
technical issues to work out in the bill before it could be
Meanwhile, other small parties have expressed concern over
losing their influence if the bill is passed.
Alessandro Maran, the bill delegate from the centrist Civic
Choice party, resigned from that role Wednesday after Renzi
allegedly "battered and ridiculed" his party's suggestions.
Puglia Governor Nichi Vendola, head of the leftist SEL
party, said it would vote no on the bill as it stands.
The New Center Right (NCD), which occupies key cabinet
seats in the current left-right government, said it was firmly
against a system that did not allow voters to directly choose
their representatives.
A big problem with Italy's current election law, which was
ruled invalid last month in the Constitutional Court, is that
the system of long 'blocked lists' of candidates gave voters
little power in selecting representatives.
Renzi reportedly wants to get around the detachment this
creates between elector and elected with smaller constituencies
and lists of just four or five candidates so voters can have a
better idea of who the potential MPs are in their area.
In a last-minute twist, the NCD joined the PD and the NCD
in underwriting the bill, according to sources from the majority
parties, citing that differences had been resolved by rejecting
the proposal to make special allowances for the League to remain
in parliament despite its small size on the national scale.
Constitutional affairs committee head Paolo Sisto, from
Berlusconi's center-right Forza Italia, said the overall bill
reflected the wishes of Berlusconi and Renzi, but stressed the
language was "open, it's not a question of take it or leave it".
Those remarks contradicted Renzi's earlier in the week.
The ambitious 39-year-old mayor of Florence told his party
Monday that his proposals were "concrete" and not open to
"It's a complicated castle that only stands up if all the
pieces are together. If someone intervened in parliament to
change something, it would wreck everything," he said at the
Despite passing a vote within the PD, the proposal has
sparked divisions in the center-left party, with left-leaning
traditionalists upset over Renzi's reaching out to Berlusconi,
ejected from parliament late last year over a binding conviction
for tax fraud.
On Tuesday the new president of the PD, Gianni Cuperlo,
abruptly resigned, saying he felt "alarmed" at the direction of
his party.

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