There was mixed reaction in Italy’s lower house of parliament as Silvio Berlusconi managed to pass a series of major constitutional reforms.Some MPs clapped, others jeered. The Prime Minister has sold the changes as a way to strengthen government.
The so-called Devolution Bill works on two fronts. Firstly, it will give more power over areas like education and health care to Italy’s regions; secondly, it will strengthen the prime minister’s position by allowing him or her to hire and fire ministers more easily and keep a firm grip on policy making. The left-wing opposition argues that the changes are a plot by Berlusconi allies the Northern League to avoid having to share their region’s wealth with the poor south. “Today represents a major step back for the country,” says leader Romano Prodi. “I believe that only the Italian people can correct this in a vote.” The reforms have to be passed in a national referendum next year, for which no date has been set.Italy is expected to hold a general election in spring next year.