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Italy’s about-face that breaks from the past

by Guido Gentili

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The law that rewrites 39 articles of the Constitution should have deserved a more intense parliamentary finale -- and a little less distracted -- than it received during its approval today. This constitutional reform known as the Boschi Law was approved by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government’s parliamentary majority, just like the similar reforms in 2001 with the center left and in 2005 with the center-right.

The revision of the Constitution’s Chapter 5 that gets rid of competing jurisdictions between state and regions, thus putting an end to a devastating conflict that has lasted for fifteen years, is an important step to eliminating federalism “Italian style” -- namely, expensive and bungling.

This was, and remains, in the interest of citizens and businesses belonging to a Western democracy where “normality” in the global competition is also measured efficiency and certainty of rules and not on institutionalized chaos that only produces more bureaucracy.

The same can be said for the reform’s end of the “equal bicameralism” for the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, which will enhance and speed up the legislative process.

Other points in the reform instead to lend themselves to more critical observations: like the case of the new powers that the Senate, for example, which will continue to legislate on the participation of the European Union and the laws that affect local authorities.

The representatives of the new Senate will be the regional council members, and one wonders -- given the widespread degradation of certain politically -- whether or not they will be up to the task, and if they will defend any sort of localism at all costs.

On the other hand, is it possible to stand still in the face of reforms that we were chatting amiably about back in the early '80s? The reform is a clean break from the dilatory practices of the past and with the inert reformism intended only to gather dust in drawers.

But the match does not end here.

Because the Chamber of Deputies’ final approval, rather than turning an important page in parliamentary history, has instead opened a new chapter.

It’s just short season from now to autumn, when the key event in the 2016 political calendar will take place: the referendum on the Constitution to which Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has tied his personal political future to whether or not Italians say “yes” to the constitutional reform that is a key signature of his government.

It’s a showdown, it’s useless to hide the fact. A “yes” or “no” (on the prime minister who wanted it, more than on the content itself) will take place when work the Stability Law for 2017 gets under way, difficult and decisive this year as never before.

It’s a dangerous intersection, at high risk.

Let’s be perfectly clear. The reform is not a magic wand, and has several weak points as mentioned above.

But it is a step forward, and is not the monster or the “destruction of the Constitution born of the Resistance” that certain ideological parts of the political spectrum insist, in an effort to beat down Renzi. But the Stability Law, in turn, must not become the springboard from which the government rushes to build consensus and win two games in one. The game to win here is only one. Italy’s growth, and nothing else.