Italy’s Renzi Makes Offer to Party Rebels in Referendum Push

  • Premier makes concession on electoral reform ahead of vote
  • Democratic Party rebels tied referendum to electoral system

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi made a concession to rebels within his party, offering a revision of the electoral law in an attempt to win their support for a make-or-break referendum on constitutional reform.

Speaking to the leadership of his Democratic Party (PD) in Rome, the premier referred to “a permanent clash” inside the party and said he was willing to discuss changes to the so-called “Italicum” electoral law for the lower house of parliament.

“As the constitutional reform is so important for the future of the country, I believe it is my duty” to seek agreement including on the so-called “Italicum” electoral law for the lower house of parliament, Renzi said.

The premier said he would consider proposals on run-off votes, on attributing an automatic majority to the leading coalition instead of the leading party, and on the way lawmakers are chosen. Renzi also said he was ready to discuss measures on the direct election of senators in the new, smaller chamber envisaged by his referendum.

Several rebels in the PD have conditioned their support for the Senate reform to changing the electoral law. The current system gives a majority to the leading party which wins more than 40 percent of the vote in the first round, or wins the run-off, and grants party leaders broad powers to choose candidates.

Pier Luigi Bersani, one of Renzi’s predecessors as PD leader, flagged his opposition to the constitutional reform on the eve of the meeting. Taken together with the current electoral law, Bersani told the newspaper Corriere della Sera on Sunday, the measure means “we’re headed towards a government of a boss, who in effect names a parliament which decides everything.”

Renzi retorted in a post on Facebook that Bersani voted for the Senate reform “three times in the lower house. I didn’t write it alone hiding in Rignano sull’Arno” -- the Tuscan town where the premier was brought up.

Renzi has promised to resign if he loses the Dec. 4 referendum, although he has recently somewhat backtracked on the issue. The reform would curtail the powers of the Senate, including its power to bring down governments with a vote of no confidence, with the aim of streamlining legislation and making governments more stable.

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