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Italian MPs vote to slash number of seats in parliament and senate

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Italy's parliament will be quieter in future.
Italy's parliament will be quieter in future. -
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REUTERS - Jamieson, Alastair
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Italian MPs have voted to drastically reduce the number of seats in its parliament and senate.

The reform was backed by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and was voted by all the main parties on Tuesday.

It could have a lasting impact on the country's political landscape and popular representation in parliament.

In the Italian parliament lower house, the number of seats will be reduced from 650 to 400, while the Senate will see its seats reduced from 315 to 200.

M5S, which introduced the reform and has pledged to tackle wasteful spending since its foundation, has said that this reform will help save at least €1 million each year.

The party has been ruling since August in a coalition with the center-left Democrats.

"For the first time we have seen lawmakers cutting their own seats," said M5S leader Luigi Di Maio.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hailed the decision as "a historic day for Italy".

Critics of the reform have warned that cutting the chambers' size could end up hindering democratic representation. A referendum could possibly be organised on the issue.

The reform is set to be implemented after the next scheduled elections in 2023.

"The savings brought by these reforms will be negligible", Cecilia Sottilotta, assistant professor of International Relations at Rome's American University, told Euronews. She noted that the current costs to operate the parliament's lower house only are €900 million.

"If these savings, in the larger picture, are irrelevant but go to have an impact on political representation in the country then that's a problem", she said.

The real motivation behind this move, she said, is promoting the Five Star Movement. "They desperately need to show to their electorate that they are delivering on something."

Italy has one of the highest numbers of parliamentary seats in Europe. It's not the highest, though: the UK holds the crown with 1427 seats (including the House of Commons and the House of Lords), while Luxembourg counts the least, with only 60 seats.

Italy's overall debt stands at around 130% of its annual GDP. Only Greece's debt burden is higher among the 19 European Union countries that use the euro currency.

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