On the constitutional referendum, again

I’m sorry, this post should have come earlier, but I’ve been busy these days; however, election day has to come yet, so, here’s my final thoughts about it.

Last Wednesday, our prime minister, Mr. Renzi, was live on Facebook for more than an hour to explain again the motivations to vote “yes” and to answer to several critiques addressed to him from several directions. He was in his office, his MacBook on the desk, open on Facebook and he also answered the question people did. The live streaming is called #matteorisponde, but this is not the point. He tried to debunk several critiques moved by his opponents and by the people about the referendum. So, this post will be a recap of what he said and, in italic font, my opinion about his answers. Right? Let’s go.

1. On the election of Senate

Mr. Renzi says that the radical change of the Senate will allow Italy to run the 100 Metres, while, until now, we have run the 110 Hs; it’s a bureaucratic simplification and an elimination of hurdles. They say that after the reform the Senate will become a recreational club for non elected mayors and regional governors. Mr. Renzi replies that, so far, the Chamber and the Senate did the same very things, while with the reform, the Chamber will hold the legislative power (mostly), while the Senate will represent the territories, the Regions through mayors and regional councilmen, as it’s been for years in countries like Germany, Austria and France, so why can’t it work here in Italy? Citizens will choose the members of the Senate directly, by writing their names and surnames in the voting paper. Senators will not earn a salary, there won’t be Parliamentary Groups anymore, they will have less importance. The law stating how their election works is not operative because the reform still has to pass, so the Government can’t start discussing a new law which is subordinate to the approval of another. Also, the age limit for which you can’t vote for the Senate unless you’re 25 will be removed.

For me: if the new Senate is to represent the local governments, the Regions, who better than their governors to represent them and look after their interests before the central government? It’s ok that, given the fact that the Senate will be much less important than it is, they will maybe meet twice a month and since they do another job, they don’t get two wages. I like this point, I’ve already said it, two Chambers must do different things as it is everywhere; I like less the fact that it’s still unclear how they are going to be appointed.

2. The article 70 is complicated and messy

They say that the text is too long and complicated to understand, it has around 430 words. Mr. Renzi says that the part of the Constitution establishing the powers of the two chambers in Usa has 2300 words while in Germany they used 6 articles. He says that we need clarity, the powers must be precisely defined, one by one; it’s clear that the old article 70 is not enough anymore because the two chambers, if the reform passes, won’t do the same things anymore. About the fact that it’s complicated to understand, the Prime Minister replies “It’s the Constitution, not Mickey Mouse”. To those who argues why this couldn’t be done through a Parliamentary Regulation, he says that it will have increased the number of conflict, freezing the regular working of the Parliament. They say that the Parliament who voted this reform is unconstitutional because the old electoral law, the so called “Porcellum” is uncostitutional. Renzi says that only the law is uncostitutional, while the elected members are regulars so they should have carried on with the regular parliamentary life. To those who argues that the Government uses too much “decreto legge” (a sort of executive order, but that must be converted into a regular law within 60 days) , Renzi replies that the reform is intended to reduce the “Ping pong” between the two chambers; so, speeding up the legislative process, they will use less decreti legge.

Applauses to “It’s the constitution, not Mickey Mouse”: correct, it’s the law, it must be written in a proper language. The comparison with USA and Germany constitutions is specious: USA is a federal government and the way it works is different; about Germany, 6 short articles (I don’t know how long) can be better than a very long one. However, this article must be longer than the present one: of course, the two Chambers will do different things!

3. Authoritarian derive

Mr. Di Maio said that if the reform passes Italy risks to become a dictatorship like Venezuela. Mr. Renzi replies that this is absolutely false because the reform will not change the powers of the executive at all, the only relevant change will be the fact that the executive will be approved by only one chamber instead of two, but this already happens in other western democracies. The president of the Republic is still the only one who can dissolve the chambers. He also recalled that the constitutional reform attempted by Berlusconi foresaw that the Prime Minister would have been able to dissolve the Chambers; that would have been dictatorship.

I appreciated the reply Mr. Renzi gave. As he said, the powers of the executive will stay the same, just that the vote of confidence will involve only the Chamber of Representatives and not the two Chambers anymore. 

4. Combinato disposto (I don’t know if this expression is translatable in English, sorry)

With both the constitutional reform and the electoral law reform, there won’t be mess ups anymore, says our Prime Minister. The Italicum (the nickname of the electoral law) has been done to change things. To those who argue that the new electoral law could have been different or just better, Mr. Renzi says that they could have done it 20 years ago; in 20 years they have accomplished nothing, while Democratic Party, under Renzi’s watch, is trying to do things.

Yes, he’s trying to do something, he tried to do a lot of things, some of them gave bad results, some didn’t but at least he tried. The new electoral law will give stronger and more stable government and maybe we need it: no way a government could resign just because of the whims of a bunch of men.

5. Distinction of powers between State and Regions

They say that the reform makes more complicated than now the relationship between the central government and the local ones.Actually, Mr. Renzi’s words, the reforms clearly distinguish who does what. Concurrent powers will be deleted, everybody will know exactly what they can do. There are 20 health regulations, there are two different laws on rock excavation between Toscana and its neighbor Emilia-Romagna, so that a gallery can require 20 years to be done. It’s a referendum about simplification: the regional governors won’t be allowed to argue on exclusive State competences anymore and everything will be done quicker.

Really man, we should not tolerate anymore the fact that a MRI has 20 different prices depending on where in Italy you live. or the fact that certain medical services are available here and not there. Since Health is a public matter, there must be a minimum decent standard everywhere throughout the nation. Also, having spread the power to local governments, thus to more people, I think that corruption spread, too, so maybe this is a way to contrast corruption, too.

6. Immunity

Mr. Di Maio, again, says that with this reform local governors will be given the immunity while they are the most corrupted political class. Mr. Renzi says that there are countries where the government makes his opponent arrested but this won’t be the case of Italy and will never be. Also, since the number of MEP will decrease from 945 to 730, there will be fewer people with the immunity.

7. Savings

Mr. Renzi says that there will be saving around 500 millions per year stemming from the abolition of old Senate, of which will be also abolished the funds for the parliamentary groups (an Italian style waste of money) and the abolition of CNEL (see here). About the last point, his employees will be redirected, while the political members will have to find a job, as well as the old senators. There won’t also be the double wage for those local governors who will be appointed as Senators. About the savings from funding the parliamentary groups, Renzi directly attacks the m5s recalling that they used their 12 millions not for political activities but to pay rents and bills.

I have already commented on this point. Anyway, the savings coming directly from the transformation of Senate and the abolition of CNEL are estimated in 100-150 millions per year. How can we reach 500 millions? The residual comes from the abolition of the provinces, which have already been emptied of most of their powers by a law of 2014, but this fact was omitted by Renzi. Not good.

8. You could have done it differently

See point 4. Here he directly addressed mr. D’Alema.

9. The conspiracy around the new article 117 of the Constitution.

People and plot lovers (m5s, for example) fears that the addiction of the word European Union in the article means that Italy will hand over a sizeable slice of its sovereignty to the EU. This is ridiculous, they just have changed the term “Community legal system” with “EU legal system” simply because during the years elapsed between the birth of the Constitution and today the European Community turned into European Union.

I can’t stop laughing. Who says this is a conspiracy has never ever read the constitution and lives on Uranus. Italy is part of the European Union, formerly known as European Community, in turn formerly known as European Coal and Steel Community. Being part of a Union means that some matter are exclusive competences of the supranational institutions, some are common competences, others are exclusive competences of the member states. It’s always been like that they only corrected the terms, since the European Community is now the European Union.

10. The reform is hasty

This is what the old De Mita said. Renzi replied that the text of the reform have been voted 6 times between Chamber of Representative and the Senate, it took more than 2 years to approve it and, anyway, between the original text and the one we will vote tomorrow there are 122 corrections and 83 amendment. Hasty, uh?

Totally agree with Renzi, nothing more to say.

11. Election of the President of the Republic.

Political opponents fears that with the new reform and the new electoral law a single party who has the majority at the Chamber can appoint a President on its own. Renzi says this is false because they have changed the quorum to appoint the President. Today,he is elected with 50+1 % of votes in the 4th call; with the reform it will take 3/5 of of the members at the 4th call and 3/5 of the attendants from the 7th call ongoing.

Every year OECD remind us that Italian students are among the worst in maths. They’re right. The new electoral law gives a majority premium to the party that received more votes, allowing them to have 54% of seats. Well, if they didn’t change the part of the constitution regulating the election of the President of the Republic, yes, it would be as Di Maio says, that a single party can elect a President because, correctly, 51% is less than 54%. But, according to my calculator, 3/5 is 0.6, so if the reforms pass they will need 60% of the members or, from the 7th call, of the voters. 

12. Referendum issues

Renzi just recalls that the reform will not only raise the minimum number of subscription to call for a popular initiative referendum, it also changes the quorum. If a referendum is asked by more than 800000 people the quorum to make the referendum valid will lower to 50+1% of who went to vote at the last political elections.

I honestly don’t know what to say about it. We’re 60 millions, maybe it’s fair that a referendum is called by something more than 0.83% of the population

13. Popular initiative laws

Critics of the reform says that the win of “yes” will be a hurdle for this kind of law because the number of signatures needed is raised from the current 50000 to 250000; what detractors don’t say but the Prime Minister does is that although the number of signatures will be raised, the reform ensures that these proposals of law will be actually discussed by the Parliament.

A mere compromise, don’t you think?

14. Specified date laws (sorry for the translation here, sorry)

Detractors says that it’s a coup, while according to Renzi this procedure will make legislation faster when it’s requested to be. In few words, this procedure provides the executive with the power to make the Chamber to discuss and amend a proposal of law within 60 days if the topic of the proposal is “essential for the execution of the government program”; after 60 days, the proposal must be voted, whether they discussed about it or not.

A coup? Please. According to me, this is genius. You have to know that, as during the last Obama term, here in Italy the government may have a “color” while the Houses have another, so the government will face a lot of hard times to carry out its program simply because the parliament is hostile. But, here, the Prime Minister can’t make a Presidential Order just like Obama can, so this novelty has my favor.

15. The reform is unconstitutional

This because, opponents says, it’s been voted by a uncostitutional parliament elected through a unconstitutional electoral law (the so-called “Porcellum”). The defense of the Prime Minister is that the Constitutional Court actually marked as uncostitutional the current electoral law, but the Parliament elected with it is legitimate, so the text of the reform.

Unfortunately, I’m not in the position to be able to fully and clearly understand the text of a sentence of the highest judiciary court, so I won’t say anything about it.

What I didn’t like about Renzi during this live show was his being protagonist no matter what; he lost a lot of time reading and answering Facebook comments, giving stupid proves that he was actually on a live streaming and not a prerecorded session, so, the last 5 points were just quickly touched and he didn’t go in depth with them.

Anyway, tomorrow it’s the day. No matter what you’re going to vote, just go to vote and do your duty as a citizen, because the universal right to vote is not just an honor; it took centuries to acquire this right, so make use of it. Or, if you really don’t want to vote, if you don’t like the result, just shut the hell up because you shouldn’t have the right to comment it.


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