The constitutional referendum in Italy to reduce the size of the parliament was ratified in a national vote on September 20 and 21 with 69. 96 % support. The proposal by the incumbent Democratic Party (PD) – Five Star Movement (M5S) coalition was backed by institutional parties ranging from the center to the far right. It was opposed by the Italian left, mainly the communist parties. Its passage cut down the number of MPs in the Chamber of Deputies from 630 to 400 and in the Senate from 315 to 200. The proposal was earlier approved in the parliament in October 2019, and also has the support of far-right parties including Matteo Salvini’s League (LN) and the Brothers of Italy.
According to reports, 51% of the country’s total electorate participated in the two-day vote. The vote was initially scheduled for March but was postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The changes mandated by the referendum will be in effect from the next Italian general elections. The establishment parties have justified the reduction in the number of MPs, arguing that the expenses during the general elections will be significantly reduced as a result. However, amending Article 56 and 57 has ensured that the minor anti-establishment parties require an increased number of votes to win a seat.
The proposal for the reduction in the number of parliamentary seats was earlier part of the failed national referendum held by the PD-led coalition government in 2016. It was also the main electoral promise of the Five Star Movement in the 2018 elections.
Meanwhile, the opponents of the referendum had slammed the reduction in the number of lawmakers as a means to decrease democratic representation. It has lowered the number of lawmakers per 100,000 inhabitants in Italy from 1.6 to 1. Communist groups, including the Potero Popolo, Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), Italian Communist Party (PCI) and Partito Comunista (PC), opposed the reduction of the number of MPs and had called on the people to vote NO against the changes proposed in the referendum.
Following the announcement of the results, Maurizio Acerbo, national secretary of the PRC, said, “It’s just the last episode of the bankruptcy ‘reform’ with which democracy has been shrinking for thirty years. Basically all parties were for YES and won. They did it with the vote of the citizens who are with the parties. We at Refoundation Communist have lined up for the #No from the beginning even knowing that it was a very difficult and upstream battle. The climate of revenge against ‘politics’ is too strong, which has shared reasons but which once again, as in the darkest years, has been cleverly directed towards anti-parliamentarianism.”
“The result of the NO (30%) is a miracle of positive resistance and now that the cut has taken place, the struggle for a pure proportional electoral law and the reintroduction of preferential voting must be re-launched to prevent the consequences from being harmful. The scam has been successful for now: privileges and blocked lists remain,” Acerbo added.
Potero Popolo stated that “If the number of parliamentarians is reduced, the privileges of those who will be elected will not decrease, on the contrary, the privileges that were previously shared between many will be concentrated on a few, while the power taken away from Parliament because it will have fewer members, will make it weaker than the government. Decreasing the role of Parliament entails authoritarianism and dictatorship, and we in Italy know something about it.”
Meanwhile, in the regional elections held in the seven regions of Italy on September 20-21, incumbent parties retained presidencies in the respective regions, except in Marche where the right-wing Brothers of Italy has taken over presidency from the PD.