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The road to the final approval of the constitutional reform is long and winding

by Paolo Pombeni

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It would be simplistic to say that the approval by the Chamber of Deputies of the government's reform of the constitution is a victory for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
First and foremost, the process is still long and difficult before the law takes effect. Secondly, such a delicate reform cannot be reduced to a wrestling match between the prime minister and his varied opposition.

The reform brings much more than the reform of the two-chamber system. In that case, it would be unclear why after wondering for 60 years about why Italy doesn't have a system similar to the big Anglo-American democracies, we are now wasting time in unintelligible discussions about the beauty of a purely parliamentarian system.

In addition to the transformation and the downsizing of the Senate, the bill includes among other issues the long-awaited reform of Title V of the Constitution that disciplines regional powers.

Among the proposals that could affect the future of Italian politics is also the possibility for the government to impose that a bill is examined by maximum 60 days. This would reduce the use of executive action through government bills to few necessary and urgent cases.
Much criticism surrounding the reform concerned the lack of a discussion on this important chapter. The government has replied that the issue has been largely discussed.

In this case, the truth is in the middle: there has been a discussion, but more like a search of a compromise or of an ideological confrontation within a fragmented political group not exactly up to its task than a joint work on the issues of mutual competence that could have helped write a less imprecise proposal now structured like a puzzle of different measures.
Of course, there was the reasonable concern of the government of embarking in a clueless debate, like it often happened in the past (for example with the three inconclusive bicameral commissions).

This is a luxury that for many reasons the country cannot afford. Let's not forget the failure of the pseudo-federalism system, which multiplied useless and unproductive spending, inflated organization structures and regional hyper-bureaucracy.

We need a reform that gives the State tools to limit this deviation, although it remains to be seen whether state bureaucracy is today more effective than local red tape.

Only effective management will tell whether large part of the measures approved will work or not.

Saying for example that the Senate will become an empty box is risky. The constituent assembly in 1946 said the same of the figure of the President of the Republic, but history has proved those dark predictions wrong.

What instead can be said with reasonable certainty is that the process to complete the reform is still long and dangerous. Firstly, the bill approved in the lower house needs to return to the Senate, where the government has a smaller majority and changes to the draft could trigger new delays. In that case, the bill should in fact return to the lower house and, only if the draft is approved by both houses in the current and second round of votes, the chambers will have to vote it again after three months. Given the current political volatility it's unsure whether everything goes fine.

Even so, the reform will need to pass a confirmative referendum announced by Renzi. This would be a referendum without quorum, meaning that amid the lower and lower turnout and the difficulty for voters to understand such a technical issue, the vote could end up being a simple exchange of slogans between opposite and limited fan bases across the country. What this means in terms of the general political balance is hard to imagine.