Italian PM Renzi promises more reform once electoral law passes

Reuters News
Posted: May 04, 2015 6:48 AM

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi promised a new electoral law expected to be passed in parliament on Monday, despite fierce opposition from many within his own ruling party, would clear a path for wider reforms of the economy.

Renzi brushed aside resistance from rebels in his centre-left Democratic Party (PD) last week by imposing confidence votes to prevent further amendments being added to the bill after more than a year of debate.

The bill, which guarantees a big majority to the winning party in an election and gives party bosses wide powers to handpick preferred candidates, comes before parliament for a final vote later on Monday, after which it will become law.

"The electoral law which will, I think and hope, be approved by the Italian parliament has a great element of clarity," Renzi said at an event at the Milan stock exchange.

"There will be the same government for five years, it will be clear who has won, it will be voters who decide which party wins, not party agreements," he said.

Together with a separate reform of the Senate that will see the upper house reduced to a non-elected chamber with limited powers, the new law is intended to ensure stable governments able to last a full five-year term.

"There will be a system in which our country will finally be a point of reference for political stability which is a precondition for economic and cultural development," he said.

Renzi noted that Italy, one of the world's slowest growing economies for more than 20 years, had had 63 governments since World War Two but that none had been strong or durable enough to push through core reforms, despite a widespread recognition that change was needed.

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Critics counter that the new law is undemocratic because it gives too much power to one leader and they note that the chief beneficiary is likely to be Renzi himself, who faces a weak and divided opposition and holds a clear lead in opinion polls.

The law is opposed by all the opposition parties and has also caused a split in the PD where 38 deputies, including senior figures in the party's old guard sidelined by Renzi, refused to back the government in last week's confidence votes.

(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Janet Lawrence)