The Italian Constitutional Reform: Is Prime Minister Matteo Renzi Open to Discussion? – July 11

This week the main themes of the Italian political debate converge on the upcoming constitutional reform being debated in the Italian parliament. The Renzi administration has been obliged to change its strategy in response to pressures from his party’s internal opposition and his governing coalition allies.

The latest polls show that public support for the constitutional reform is declining, falling to 37% after a high of 50% in February.  The percentage of the opposed and undecided have increased to 30% and 33% respectively. According to the noted Italian political scientist Ilvo Diamanti one of the main factors driving these trends is the “personalization” of the referendum after Prime Minister Renzi declared that he would resign if the “NO” camp prevailed. This, Diamanti explained, has strongly polarized public opinion and consolidated opposition forces hoping to push Matteo Renzi’s government to collapse.

Renzi faces other pressures as well:  eight members of the Nuovo Centro Destra (the New Center Right, or NCD) party, which is part of the governing coalition, have threatened to withdraw their support. Many commentators believe, however, that NCD is trying to put pressure on Renzi to make concessions on part of the electoral reform bill that disadvantages small parties. Complicating matters, NCD leader (and Minister for Home Affairs in Renzi’s government) Angelino Alfano has been touched by scandal over the last week: in ongoing investigations of corruption by the public prosecutor of Rome, several individuals were implicated in influence trafficking and money laundering, one of whom, Raffaele Pizza, is accused of helping Alfano’s brother obtain a well-paying job in a public agency. The opposition has called on Alfano to resign.

In light of these developments, the government has slightly changed its strategy on pushing the electoral law and constitutional reform through parliament: Renzi announced his openness to possible modifications of the new electoral law and there have been leaks from Democratic party sources that Renzi would not oppose a decision to break up the vote on the reform into several parts, which would facilitate debate over the law, something he has resisted in the past.

The Five Star Movement is also struggling in the wake of its recent victories in the local mayoral elections in Rome and Turin.  The composition of Rome’s newly elected mayor Virginia Raggi’s cabinet is still under debate as several nominees have been controversial. Chiara Appendino, the newly elected mayor of Turin, is also under fire from conservatives for changing the name of the ‘Family Issues’ office in her government too ‘Families’Issues’ in a nod to marriage equality.

Also, over the weekend, Renzi announced the government’s willingness to support NATO’s mission in Afghanistan and confirmed a rapid timetable for a vote on the civil marriage law in the parliament.

[Congratulations to new LPD Assistant Michail Schwartz on his first Italian Politics Briefing!]

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This fall, NYU Florence professors Roberto D’Alimonte and Alessandro Chiaramonte, will explain the constitutional reform currently under discussion in the Italian parliament in their talk Italian Politics Adesso! on September 26 from 6-8pm. Join us to learn more! Rsvp required at lapietra.dialogues@nyu.edu

 

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