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Italy Eases Election Signature-Collection Requirements

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Mario Monti’s Cabinet passed a decree to simplify the procedures for parties running for the first time in general elections.

Parties not already represented in the Rome-based Parliament will have to collect fewer signatures than now required to qualify, according to an e-mailed statement from the prime minister’s office today. New parties will have to collect half the number of signatures normally required, while those with seats in parliament will have to collect 60 percent of the normal levels.

Monti has said he will resign by the end of this week after the approval of the budget law. That decision would allow President Giorgio Napolitano to dissolve the Parliament ahead of elections expected in February. The measure comes as Monti faces pressure at home and abroad to run in the election or at least to endorse a coalition of parties officially supporting his policies.

The new rules make it easier for parties such as the 5 Star Movement of comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo. The party runs close to 20 percent in most opinion polls and has never participated in national elections.

The Parliament will probably be dissolved over the holiday period, complicating efforts by parties to collect the required signatures. Today’s decree makes it easier for the parties to meet the required thresholds.

The government also passed a measure to allow regional elections in Lombardy, Lazio and Molise to be held the same day as the national vote.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lorenzo Totaro in Rome at ltotaro@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net

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