Set aside the electoral system reform, already approved by the Chamber of Deputies, Italian Prime Minister is moving forward with his program, as he wants the locomotive to keep running.

Abolishing the Senate is one of the goals that Matteo Renzi has lately accomplished in view of the European elections scheduled in May, along with the revision of Title V of the Constitution that is leading to a significant reshaping of the Region’s legislative role.

However, Mr Renzi, who was appointed Prime Minister in February, has been facing opposition within his centre-left Democratic Party.

In particular, President of the Senate Piero Grasso stated that the reform addressed to the upper chamber might jeopardize the democracy.

But are these reforms truly creating a non-democratic government or could they be the cure for the Italian paralysis?

Though part of the reforms could be conceived radical for the country, the political framework won’t change as the bicameral system won’t be suppressed.

The Senate will in fact be replaced by a new Assembly, which however will see its influence in the legislative process being reduced, in favor of the Chamber of Deputies.

Despite Mr Grasso’s concerns about the alleged collapse of democratic principles, Italian Prime Minister believes that the new bicameral system might represent a way out from the crisis.

Indeed, the bills bouncing between Deputies and Senators was an obstacle not easy to overcome when there is an equal balance of power.

The redistribution of the legislative influence between the chambers can accelerate the realization of political programs, as the new Senate will only have the opportunity to modify the bills, without having a crucial role in the final decisions.

Hence, with the exception of Constitutional issues, the Chamber of Deputies will be the only organ of the Italian Parliament entitled to enact new laws.

Compromises will be reduced so as to give a boost to the legislative process and the party in power, so that it doesn’t  encounter the extreme and unproductive opposition that has struck Italian politics these last few years.

What is more, the new Senate will be composed of 148 members who will not be entitled to benefits as the previous 315 were.

Aside from the decrease in members, the reforms will provide extra savings for the country considering that the enhancement of the legislative process will help to cut the costs of the politics.

But what the President of the Senate has mostly argued for is not the suppression of the balance between the chambers, but the issue that lies with the method to elect the members.

New Senate seats, won’t be directly named by the citizens but assigned to mayors, presidents of Regions and, 21 senators named by the Head of the State.

Mr Grasso hammered away at Prime Minister Renzi to allow at least part of the new Senate to be elected by citizens, as the reform can undermine democracy due to the lack of direct representation.

But though the new Senate’s members appear to depend on politicians’ choices, the duty to elect mayors still belongs to the citizens.

The reform of the new Senate doesn’t break the relationship between candidates and electorate, for most of the chamber seats, even if based on second-degree elections.

Looking for instance at the UK Parliament, where House of Lords’ 92 titles are still assigned by blood heritage, it comes out that the real issue is not the democracy- non-democracy dichotomy but what is best to make a system work.

Italy needed changes and Mr Renzi has been working to re-build the credibility the country was loosing. Indeed, more worse than alleged wrong policies is to have a government which is unable to make significant moves.

Reforms will re-shape the relation between state and regions and decrease the balance of the bicameral system, reducing the influence of the opposition.

These reforms, for which the Prime Minister would quit if they won’t be implemented – as he categorically declared – might be considered non-democratic, but likely what Italy needs.

For years, Italian politics has been paralyzed, being just a spectator of continuous replacements of leaders. Today, Matteo Renzi could be the figure the country had been waiting for.

Blaming the reforms to be built on non-democratic principles could be just the fear of actually having to change something in the system.

As Mario Monti stated: “The previous bicameral system was a monument to imperfection. We need to overcome it but through pondered actions.”

The need doesn’t have to be rushed but Italy has to take courage as these reforms could transform the paralysis into movement.


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