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Italy's Quest for Direct Democracy: The Push for Prime Ministerial Elections

Is Italy going to be something like the USA or France, countries in which the national leader is elected directly by the people? While not precisely mirroring these models, the Italian majority is committed to approving what the President of the Council, Giorgia Meloni, has depicted as "The mother of all reforms": the direct election of the Prime Minister by the voters. Recently, in one of the Senate Committees, the bill passed with the support of the majority parties (Fratelli d’Italia, Lega, Forza Italia, and Noi Moderati). This marks just the initial step of many in the reform process. Nonetheless, the political significance of the Committee's vote is profound.


To grasp the reform comprehensively, we must take a step back. During the latest general election campaign, Mrs. Meloni's party asserted that Italy hardly requires such a reform to ensure that the Prime Minister adheres to the voters' demands. Additionally, the Lega party insisted on another reform: a robust form of Regionalism, aiming to grant the 20 Italian regions more authority over areas such as taxation, healthcare, public transportation, and education. These two reforms are purportedly politically intertwined.


Returning to the present day, it's crucial to emphasize that the Prime Minister reform intersects with the current Italian Constitution. Specifically, it will impact, albeit indirectly, the current prerogatives of the President of the Republic. Currently, the President of the Republic holds the constitutionally granted authority to appoint the Prime Minister after formal consultations with all parliamentary parties. The appointed individual may be unelected, as was the case with Giuseppe Conte or Mario Draghi. The appointed Prime Minister must gain the confidence of both houses of parliament. Moreover, the President of the Republic currently has the power to decide whether or not to dissolve parliament and call for new elections. These prerogatives will be forfeited with the reform, as the Prime Minister will be elected and will decide when to resign and call for new elections. These are just two instances illustrating the complexity and, in a sense, fragility of the Italian institutional system. It relies on a delicate system of checks and balances that could be jeopardized by the reform. However, the process is still far from completion.

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