Rome

Reform minister moots elections for Italian president

Head of state currently voted in by parliament, regional reps

Reform minister moots elections for Italian president

(see related story on election law) Rome, May 22 - Reform Minister Gaetano Quagliariello mooted the idea of introducing direct elections for the Italian president as part of possible changes to the Constitution. At the moment the head of state is elected by lawmakers from the Senate and Upper House and representatives of Italy's regions. Premier Enrico Letta has said replacing Italy's much-criticised election law, which failed to produce a clear winner in February's vote, and Constitutional changes to make the country easier to govern are top priorities for his left-right government. Part of the reason the general election was inconclusive was because the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement tapped into widespread disenchantment at a political system that has failed to address many of Italy's social and economic ailments in recent years. "The increasingly wide gap between the political world and the public and the situation in Europe mean we should assess whether it is preferable to adopt a system with direct elections for the president," Quagliariello told the House. Quagliariello is a Senator of three-time Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party. Berlusconi has called for the president to be elected directly by the people in the past and is widely thought to want to become head of state one day. The Italian president is mostly a non-political figurehead role, although the holder does have the power to send laws back to parliament if they are deemed to be unconstitutional. The head of state has a key role to play though in situations of political crisis, such as the impasse that followed February's inconclusive general election. President Giorgio Napolitano was instrumental in the formation of Letta's unprecedented left-right coalition government. Quagliariello also said he was against a bill presented by Senators from Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) that threatens to force the M5S out of the Italian political arena. If it becomes law, the bill would force the Internet-based M5S to become more like a conventional party in several ways if it wants to run in elections. M5S leader Beppe Grillo has said the movement will never do this. He said his movement will boycott the next election if the bill is signed into law and warned there would be "an expansion of violence" if the M5S were shut out from politics.

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