Italian Constitutional Referendum: Voting for Structural Reform or Constitutional Transformation?

The study of Italian constitutional law in the Anglophone world has never been really fashionable. This is not the place to discuss the reasons why this has been the case, but suffice here to note that to the marginal condition of Italian constitutional law in comparative studies does not correspond an inactive or subaltern scholarship. An opportunity for igniting interest for the Italian constitutional debate might be provided by the forthcoming referendum (possibly in November 2016) on a constitutional reform proposed by the government.[1] On paper, this is a significant reform of the second part of the Italian constitution (concerning the organisation of powers) and it has been presented as an essential and much needed constitutional change.

The proposed reform covers two main areas: reform of the parliamentary bicameral system and restructuring of the centre-periphery relations with the aim of amending the failures of a previous change toward decentralisation (in 2001). It also contains other important but less systematic provisions, for example, on the regulation of referendums or citizens’ legislative initiative, or on the abolition of unnecessary agencies. An introduction to the main points of the reform with a remarkable sensitivity for the political context has already been offered, on this blog, by Paul Blokker.[2]

In light of this and given the width and the scope of the reform, I will focus on one of its core aims, possibly the most impactful. The core of the project concerns the Senate because it assumes, as a starting point, that the current system of symmetrical bicameralism is dysfunctional. Clearly, this is a valid point of departure. As it stands, the Italian parliament is comprised of two elected chambers with almost identical powers in the legislative process ...

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