Italian MPs vote to cut size of parliament by 345
Cutting the numbers in both houses by 345 was a central manifesto promise of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), which is now sharing power with the centre-left Democrats, and promised voters it would tackle political elitism and reduce spending on political salaries.
The reform, which is linked to broader electoral legal changes, was passed by 553 MPs, with only 14 votes against and two abstentions.
Italy’s voting system mixes proportional representation with first-past-the-post constituencies.
Polling suggests the Lega and its far-right allies would win a parliamentary majority under the present system. Members of the new government have called for a return to full PR to make it harder for any one group to win overall victory and force a politics of co-operation.
The Democrats want electoral changes to be decided by December, allowing a new system to be in place if the fragile coalition with the M5S collapses, opening the way for an early election.
The law should come into effect after the next general election, which is due in 2023 unless the current administration folds.
The Italian parliament has the second-highest number of parliamentarians in the EU, after the UK. Rome has 630 elected lower-house MPs and 315 senators.
The reform package might be brought to a referendum.
It proposes cuts to the number of MPs to 400 and senators to 200 from the next legislature, with an expected saving of €100 million per year.
The AGI news agency calculated that as an MP costs €230,000 per year and a senator €249,600, the cuts in the lower house would save €52.9 million annually and those in the senate €28.7 million.
“It’s a well-balanced reform with an excellent profile, [forcing] parties to take particular care in choosing candidates,” said legal scholar Guido Neppi Modona.
Other analysts have said the savings are limited and could boost the influence of lobbyists.
It is the eighth attempt to reduce the size of the Italian parliament since 1983, according to the Open news website.
The reform means a large number of parliamentarians will lose their seats at the next election and may not be eligible for a pension from the current parliamentary term unless it lasts until September 2022.
That means it is in the financial interests of most MPs to maintain the government to safeguard their pension rights.
The new government’s other main objective is to pass a budget to block a rise in the VAT sales tax, which was set for January 1, if the country fails to reach its debt-reduction target.
Many Italians are disenchanted with their political elite. Picture credit: Wikimedia