The Italian referendum: What is really at stake?


On December the 4th, Italian voters will go to the polls to decide on a constitutional referendum that has drawn much attention by international observers. Although the referendum itself is rather a technical vote with complex implications, the local media have morphed it into a simple vote of confidence for current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Latest polls are pointing towards a no vote. What is the referendum about exactly and what is the mid-term implications of a no vote should it materialize?


The current Italian political system is composed by a perfect bicameral framework with a total of 945 elected members split between deputies and senators. The house of deputies has the same powers than the house of senators and bills need the approval of both chambers to be passed into laws. Because of the bicameral system, Italy is facing a certain degree of inertia when it comes to reforming taxes, courts, labor law and other legal aspects of the economic life.


Under the proposed referendum, the dual-chamber system will be dismissed and the powers granted to senators will be decreased while the number of senators reduced. Finally, a number of functions currently attributed to regions will be re-centralized in order to create more efficiency. Ultimately, the senate will no longer have the power to approve new proposed legislation. The last bit of change comes in the form of a new electoral law called “Italicum” which is subject to much debate even within the democratic party of current Prime Minister Renzi.

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