Napolitano warns parties against 'petty calculations'

President says credibility at stake over institutional reforms

Napolitano warns parties against 'petty calculations'

Rome, June 13 - President Giorgio Napolitano on Thursday warned Italy's political parties not to make "petty calculations" when it comes to reforms deemed necessary to make the country easier to govern. Premier Enrico Letta's left-right administration has set itself am 18-month deadline to have push through the reforms, including a new electoral law, cuts to the number of MPs and stripping the Senate of its equal status to the Lower House. The government has also named a group of 30 Constitutional experts who will help a panel of 40 parliamentarians draft the reforms, which will be voted on in parliament. But there are concerns that institutional changes may get bogged down by bickering among parties. "The government should work serenely. Parliament should do its bit serenely and with long-sightedness," Napolitano said in a speech at a conference of Italy's prefects. "The political parties should not descend into convulsive, petty calculations of convenience of any kind. Our country's credibility is at stake". On Thursday a vote to give the bill setting up the panel of 40 lawmakers urgent status so that it passes more quickly was approved in the Senate, even though Renato Schifani, the Upper House whip of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL), said it was "inopportune". The PdL, whose support Letta needs to keep his government afloat, voted in favour nevertheless. Schifani also said setting an 18-month deadline for the reform process smacked of being a vote of "no confidence" in parliament. A new election law is seen as necessary to replace the much-criticised current one that failed to produce a clear winner in February's general election. The aim is also to change the current parliamentary set-up in which all laws must be approved by both the House and Senate, seen by many as being one of the major sources of dysfunction for Italy's institutions. Letta's government aims to keep the Lower House as the main law-making chamber of parliament, while turning the Senate into an assembly of Italian regions. The PdL and Letta's centre-left Democratic Party have expressed major differences over the election law. The PdL has said it only wants to amend the current law while the PD wants a completely new one to come into force.

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