A weekend pact between Matteo Renzi and Silvio Berlusconi offers new hope to Italy. The constitutional reform deal between the leader of Italy’s largest party and the leader of the opposition addresses one of the country’s biggest problems: its ungovernability. Now Renzi, who runs the centre-left Democratic Party, needs to put his energy behind key economic reforms, especially jobs and public spending.
Italy, where I spent much of last week, has been plagued for years with unstable governments. In part this is because the voting system gives a lot of power to small parties and can lead to conflicting majorities in the two houses of parliament, which have equal power.
The Renzi-Berlusconi deal aims to reinforce the power of larger parties by changing the voting system. It also would demote the upper house so that governments will only need to secure a majority in the lower one. Meanwhile, the two leaders have agreed to cut the power of Italy’s regions – a move which should save money and lead to more stream-lined decision-making.
Mind you, it’s not yet clear that the pact will achieve all this. That’s partly because the details haven’t been published. But it’s also because plans to strengthen the larger parties have been diluted with the aim of getting some of the smaller parties to support the reform.
The key figure here is Angelino Alfano, who broke away from Berlusconi late last year. His splinter group supports the coalition government led by Enrico Letta, who is a member of the Democratic Party but increasingly subservient to Renzi since the latter became leader in December.