Italian Reform Minister Says PM Renzi's Senate Plan Will Go Ahead

by
Reuters
A plan to reform Italy's upper house to which Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has tied his political future will go ahead, even if the party of Silvio Berlusconi does not support it, the minister for reforms said on Sunday.

A plan to reform Italy's upper house to which Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has tied his political future will go ahead, even if the party of Silvio Berlusconi does not support it, the minister for reforms said on Sunday.

Centre-right leader Berlusconi on Saturday threatened to withdraw his party's backing for the reform, part of wider efforts to trim Italy's bloated political apparatus and fix an electoral system blamed for creating deadlock and unstable governments. He demanded that it be renegotiated.

"I hope that Forza Italia continues to contribute to the reform process, but if that is not the case the majority still has the numbers to go forward," Reform Minister Maria Elena Boschi said in a television interview with SkyTG24.

"It's in no one's interest to renegotiate the reforms ... we are determined to go ahead."

Renzi has said he will resign if the plan, which would make the Senate a non-elected chamber and remove its power to hold confidence votes on the government and on the budget, is blocked in parliament.

Berlusconi had previously said his Forza Italia party would support the bill, after he roughly agreed its outlines with Renzi in January.

Forza Italia's support is important to ease the bill's passage, particularly in the Senate where Renzi's coalition of the Democratic Party with the New Centre Right and smaller groups has a slim majority of 169 to 139 votes.

There is a risk that coalition senators could turn against the bill as it requires them to vote to scrap their own jobs.

The reform is part of a broader programme to slim down Italy's complex political system, and Renzi had said he planned to get preliminary approval for it before European parliamentary elections on May 25.

The first step of Renzi's ambitious programme, to cut wasteful layers of local administration, was passed this week only after the government called a confidence vote to force it through.