In Rome, Renzi reforms pass first confidence vote | News | DW | 29.04.2015
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In Rome, Renzi reforms pass first confidence vote

Italy's government has won an initial vote of confidence on legislation that purports to end political instability. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has suggested that critics of his bill will not be able to halt its passage.

Italy's government won a confidence vote on a proposal that has divided the Democratic Party (PD) led by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Wednesday's 352-207 vote with one abstention represents the first of three polls on various articles in the bill that Renzi has put to a confidence vote to help guarantee passage in the lower Chamber of Deputies. If the legislation loses, Renzi's government must resign.

"The road is still long," Renzi wrote in Italian on Twitter Wednesday, "but this is the right time."

Renzi's Italicum law would grant election winners an automatic 55 percent parliamentary majority. The prime minister says this would ensure that elections had clear victors rather than resulting in awkward coalitions or a gridlocked legislature. The law would not come into force until next year, and it is meant to complement a separate reform reducing the role of parliament's upper house, the Senate, as part of a broader shake-up of the whole system.

Critics say the bill weakens parliament's influence and upsets constitutional checks and balances. Opposition to the measure includes several members of the PD.

'Funeral of democracy'

On Wednesday, 38 PD dissidents - including senior party figures such as former leader Pier Luigi Bersani - walked out of parliament in protest. The chamber planned to hold two more votes of confidence linked to single articles of the bill on Thursday before a final, secret poll on the whole package early next week. Ironically, should Renzi fail any of the confidence votes, the government would be thrown back into instability, with the prime minister forced to resign, and President Sergio Mattarella made to either appoint a new government or call early elections.

"After making dozens of changes, after mediations, discussions, negotiations, you either take a decision or you go back to square one," Renzi wrote in an open letter published in the newspaper La Stampa ahead of Wednesday's vote. "If a parliament takes a decision, if a government takes a decision, this is a democracy, not a dictatorship."

Parliamentary debate had descended into chaos on Tuesday, with opposition lawmakers accusing the government of spearheading "fascist" reform. Some of them threw chrysanthemums, a flower associated with death, to mourn "the funeral of democracy."

Renzi's government has been hailed as a breath of fresh air after the country spent several years in and out of the hands of the media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, whose bunga bunga exploits and corruption allegations had caused much distraction in Italy's political system, but whose tax fraud eventually led to his removal from the Senate. Some say, however, that the ambitious Renzi helped engineer the downfall of his predecessor, the PD's Enrico Letta.

mkg/ (Reuters, dpa, AP)

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