On December 4th, 2016, the Italian government will stage a referendum aimed at overhauling the government by disrupting its “perfectly symmetric” bicameral legislature. If passed, the referendum would enhance the power of the Executive and curb the power of the Senate. This would mean that the current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s tenure would accompany a parliamentary majority in the Chamber of Deputies, and amount to a comprehensive centralization of power.
While the reforms would undoubtedly provide PM Renzi a streamlined process to pass legislation in order to tackle the country’s financial woes, such reforms are a threat to democratic principles of bicameralism and proportional representation because they reduce the number of senators to one-sixth of that of the Chamber of Deputies. The reformed structure of the Senate would fail to adequately represent the interests of the regions due to its weakened state. Additionally, the method of appointment of senators would lead to a system that represents political parties rather than local interests.
Despite the notion that a “No” vote would fail to address Italy’s crippling problems (i.e., second-highest debt load in the eurozone, at 133% of GDP), PM Renzi (who has vowed to step down if the referendum fails) should think twice about altering the integrity of Italy’s electoral system. Perhaps he is better off arguing for structural electoral reforms aimed at honoring the representation of the Italian people instead.