Napolitano says law can still be changed in election run-up

Storace, Turco raise concerns over timeliness of reforms

Napolitano says law can still be changed in election run-up

Rome, November 30 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday said that electoral law can be changed even in the run-up to elections "without contravening the guidelines" of the European Commission. In 2003 the European Commission said that no major changes could be made to election law within one year of elections. "Broad discussion in parliament" was needed, said Napolitano, stressing that only some portions of current legislation should be amended. The president was responding in a letter to concerns raised by Francesco Storace, leader of the rightist party La Destra (The Right) and Maurizio Turco from the Radical Party, over possibly violating European law by rushing reforms ahead of general elections expected in March. Italy's current law - passed under a previous government of Silvio Berlusconi and often referred to as the Porcellum, or 'Pig's dinner' - has been widely criticised for distancing politicians from voters, who effectively cannot pick their representatives, as party leaders have the power to name candidates on so-called 'blocked lists', which are then voted on. A reform bill currently before parliament aims to ensure a clear outcome from elections, but parties are squabbling over a premium that would go to the winner. Napolitano has made repeated appeals to politicians to agree on new rules by the elections. However after nearly a year of stalled talks and differences at the party level, skepticism has grown that decisive reforms can be implemented in time for the vote.

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