Italy Plan to Cut Number of Lawmakers Will Face 2020 Referendum

(Bloomberg) -- A plan to reduce the number of seats in Italy’s parliament will be put to a referendum next year, giving an incentive to some lawmakers to seek snap elections under the current system.

Parliament in October approved cutting the number of lower house members from 630 to 400, and the number of senators from 315 to 200, the first major reform by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s second coalition government. Opponents of the measure gathered enough signatures to stop the plan becoming law on Jan. 10, Senator Tommaso Nannicini, a promoter of the referendum, said in a Twitter post.

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement set the change as a condition for allying itself with its past rival, the center-left Democratic Party, which had opposed the idea. The referendum, which won’t likely happen before June based on past timelines, could impact the tenure of the current government, which like its predecessor has lurched from crisis to crisis, with threats of a breakup and early elections.

Conte told reporters that the referendum wouldn’t have an impact on his government’s agenda, news agency Ansa reported.

Because snap elections cannot be called during the referendum period, advocates of an early vote could now in theory push for a quick end of the government before that period begins. A vote with the current framework would mean their seats would no longer be at risk of being eliminated in the reform.

An Aug. 29 projection by polling company showed Five Star and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia as the parties which would lose the most seats.

“Although nothing can be given for granted in Italy, we would advise investors to be ready for 2020 snap elections,” Citigroup said in a report Wednesday. Matteo Salvini’s League would probably double seats in a vote under the current system and some lawmakers could be attracted to join the populist party, the bank said.

Since the passage of the measure, lawmakers have been skirmishing over the details of a new electoral system, with no resolution so far.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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