Italy's lower house approves new electoral law

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/10/13 9:49:04

A highly contested new electoral law was approved by Italy's lower house on Thursday, after a series of sensitive votes that could have put the government at risk.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni's center-left cabinet won the last of three confidence motions on the provision in early afternoon. Then, later in the evening, the bill passed a secret ballot with 375 votes in favor and 215 votes against.

The government has won two of the three confidence votes on Wednesday. According to the Italian law, the government is forced to resign in the case of a negative result in a confidence motion.

Now, the bill will still need the green light of the senate, but the government cannot count on a solid majority in the upper house. If definitely approved, the new electoral law would see two-thirds of lawmakers elected on a proportional basis -- with the number of seats allocated to each party in proportion to the votes received -- and one third via a first-past-the-post system.

It would also introduce a 3 percent threshold for single parties to enter parliament, and a 10 percent threshold for coalitions.

The bill was submitted by ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD), and supported by small centrist cabinet ally Popular Alternative, by opposition center-right Forza Italia (FI) of former premier and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, and anti-immigration Northern League.

Populist, euro-sceptic Five Star Movement (M5S) as well as minor leftist groups that splintered from the Democratic Party, and the small right-wing Brothers of Italy party, strongly opposed the text of the electoral reform bill.

M5S lawmakers and supporters staged angry protests before the parliament on Wednesday and Thursday against the cabinet's decision to call confidence votes on the bill, as such drastically cutting the discussion and the chances to amend the proposal.

The movement -- which is the largest opposition force, and has been polling neck-to-neck with the PD in latest months -- claimed the new system would harm its chances in the next elections due in spring 2018.

Favoring the formation of broad coalitions before elections are held, the bill may indeed penalize the M5S for its refusal of any electoral alliance. M5S leaders called the bill "an electoral fraud" and a "subversive act."

However, a new electoral law was seen as necessary before leading the country towards new polls, in order to harmonize the two different systems currently presiding over the election of the chamber of deputies and of the senate, which share equal legislative powers.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has repeatedly appealed on parties to make the two sets of rules consistent with each other. In case elections provide different outcomes in the two chambers, in fact, the risk of a political impasse in parliament and a consequent impossibility to form a government would be high.

With the next elections looming, the cabinet decided to call the confidence votes on the bill to have it more swiftly approved by the lower house, after over three years since the debate on a new electoral system began.

The last attempt of reform ended in June with the failure of a deal struck among major parties, and then proposed electoral bill was rejected through a secret vote in the lower house.

Posted in: EUROPE

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