December 14, 2016
Towards the next Italian referendum
One of the many complicating factors in Italian politics is the possibility of another important referendum next year - on Matteo Renzi’s Job Act, his only important economic reform. This included the abolition of Article 18 in the Italian constitution, which gave workers the right of non-dismissal. Francesco Verderami has a long article in Corriere della Sera this morning, in which he explains why Italy will go to the polls at some point between mid-April and mid-June next year, either for a new election, or for a referendum on the jobs act. The jobs act is an issue that could align Matteo Renzi’s opponents once again.
The Italian Constitutional Court will have a bearing on both issues. It is due to rule on the electoral law in January. Verderami says the consensus view among parliamentarians is that the court would let the new law pass. This should then pave the way for a new electoral law to be approved quickly, in time for new elections in the spring. This seems to be his main scenario, if only because the PD wants to avoid another humiliating referendum defeat. The court has yet to rule whether the Article 18 abolition meets the test for being brought to a referendum. The government could weaken the labour law to circumvent the need for a referendum. The referendum would also be subject to minimum turnout rules, unlike the referendum on Dec 4 (which would have passed that threshold in any case).
The prospect of new elections has created all sorts of strange bedfellows. Matteo Renzi and the Five Star Movement want new elections. Parts of the PD do not. Angelino Alfano, the new foreign minister, says there is no need to wait for the Constitutional Court to rule in January, and wants the government to draft a new electoral law right away. Verderami concludes that, since the Constitutional Court will rule on the electoral law before it rules on the Article 18 referendum, the least risky course of action for the PD would be to opt for early elections in the spring.