Constitutional reform experts 'launch' meetings in Rome

Panel aiming to streamline Italian government

Constitutional reform experts 'launch' meetings in Rome

Rome, June 12 - A group of experts are meeting in Rome Thursday for the first time to start to hash out reforms of the Italian Constitution in order to streamline government. "The great thing (about the group) is that it represents...a unique opportunity that is not being squandered," said Premier Enrico Letta at the start of the meeting. He added that the group of 35 Constitutional experts would have "full autonomy" in devising their recommendations. "I'm here today merely to launch the race," he said. The group will compare its findings with a panel of 40 parliamentarians with the goal of framing reforms within an 18-month deadline. "A final report should be ready by October 15 and then handed over to parliament," said Constitutional Reforms Minister Gaetano Quagliariello. "We must do it without delay". A bill laying out the procedures will have completed its first reading in parliament by the end of July, the government says. Reforms will include a new electoral law, cutting the number of MPs and stripping the Senate of its equal status to the Lower House. Law-making is slower in Italy than other countries because the Senate has the same powers as the House. 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. (photo: Constitutional Reforms Minister Gaetano Quagliariello)

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