The reforms that Italians are voting on would radically change the constitution which has been in place since 1948. First of all they affect the office of the President of the Republic, reducing one of the head of state’s main powers.
Under the reform bill- passed last November when the centre right held was in government- the President could only dissolve parliament only if the Prime Minister asked him to, or resigned, or if the lower house passed a vote of no confidence. The head of the government would see his powers increased.
He would no longer need a vote of confidence in the upper and lower house. The chamber of deputies would simply express their support for the government’s programme.
The premier would be able to nominate and fire ministers without the blessing of the President. If the premier resigned, that would mean the de facto dissolution of parliament and fresh elections.
The lower house would adopt national laws while the Senate would take on a federal role, with responsibility for regional matters.The reform bill reduces the number of seats in the lower house to 518, and in the upper house to 252. It also lowers the minimum age required to serve as a member of parliament. More importantly, it hands what it terms “exclusive legislative competence” to Italy’s 20 regions when it comes to police, education and health policy. The head of the right wing National Alliance, Gianfranco Fini, says it is a positive step: “Having a clearly defined relationship between the state’s powers and the regions’ powers is very important for us, and if a region passes a law that’s against the national interest, the government can block it.”
Italy’s left-wing parties called the referendum while in opposition. Piero Fasino, leader of the Left Democrats, said: “The reform would be expensive, would increase bureaucracy and inefficiency, and moreover citizens would no longer have the same rights, opportunities and services.”
Even if the reforms are approved, the major transfer of power to the regions would not happen before 2012 and some constitutional changes would not happen until 2015.