Rome

Parliament to approve Constitutional reform by October 2014

Bill launched to set path for streamlining govt

Parliament to approve Constitutional reform by October 2014

(refiling corrected). Rome, June 6 - The Italian parliament should approve a Constitutional reform bill launched on Thursday by the end of October 2014, according to Constitutional Reform Minister Gaetano Quagliariello. The cabinet headed by Premier Enrico Letta on Thursday launched the bill setting out procedures to reform the Italian Constitution to streamline government. Premier Letta has set an 18-month deadline for the reforms, which will be framed by a panel of 40 members of parliament after consulting a committee of 35 so-called 'wise men', experts on the Constitution. The panel - 20 members of the Lower House and 20 Senators - will be set up in October this year when the committee's recommendations have been received, Quagliariello said. "By that time, the committee of experts that has been appointed today will have finished its work and presented its report to the government," he said. The 40-strong committee will address issues such as the form of the Italian State and government, and will also be able to rewrite the electoral law. The current electoral law has been widely criticised because it does not let voters pick their MPs and tends to produce different majorities in the two houses, as happened in February's general election which led to two months of deadlock. Other changes to the Constitution will include stripping the Senate of law-making powers and turning it into a regional assembly. At present it has the same powers as the House, and laws have to be approved in the same form in both houses. Another mooted reform is to change the way the Italian president is elected. Currently he is voted in by parliament. There is a groundswell on the right for changing this to let the Italian people choose him, as in France and the United States, but this is opposed by many on the left. Any changes to the Constitution require a two-thirds majority in both chambers. If they do not get this, they are subject to a popular referendum, which can abrogates the reform. Quagliariello said the new reforms would in any case be put to a referendum. Letta has said he will resign if the reforms are not framed in 18 months. Otherwise, he has vowed to try to complete his five-year term, despite expectations of ructions in his unnatural left-right coalition.

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