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article imageRenzi calls critics' bluff with Italy electoral reform move

By AFP     Apr 28, 2015 in Politics

Amid chaotic scenes in parliament, Italy's centre-left government on Tuesday announced a confidence vote over proposals for a radical overhaul of the electoral system aimed at producing stable governments.

The move was seen as Prime Minister Matteo Renzi calling the bluff of opponents of the reform within his ruling coalition: if they fail to back him and he loses the confidence vote, the result would be new elections.

The announcement of the vote, which is expected to take place next week, prompted angry scenes in the lower house National Assembly with opposition lawmakers accusing Renzi of seeking to consolidate his grip on power via a system that will give the largest party to emerge from elections a winner's premium in terms of seats, guaranteeing a working majority in parliament.

Renzi has rebuffed charges of a power grab, saying Italy has to move towards something similar to the two-party systems in place in many other democracies and wave goodbye to decades of chronic political instability.

"The lower house has the right to get rid of me if it wants, that's what a confidence vote is for," Renzi tweeted shortly after the surprise move was announced. "As long as I'm here, I will try to change Italy."

If adopted, the new law is expected to come into force in 2016. It was approved by the upper house Senate in January.

The back-me-or-sack-me approach from Renzi is becoming a familiar one: it was also used to pilot labour market reforms through parliament last year.

Under his vision of Italy's constitutional future, governments will also not be encumbered by a Senate with extensive powers to block and delay legislation, as is currently the case.

Under constitutional reform also currently going through parliament, the upper chamber will become a much weaker body charged with representing the interests of Italy's regional bodies.

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