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Italy senate approves constitutional reform bill

Senate gives green light to Premierato bill.

The Italian senate on Tuesday approved the right-wing government's controversial bill to reform Italy's constitution to allow for the direct election of a prime minister.

The so-called Premierato constitutional reform bill, pushed by premier Giorgia Meloni, was passed by 109 votes to 77 and will now pass to the lower house.

Meloni's proposal would see Italian voters directly elect prime ministers for five-year terms, with the coalition that supports the winning candidate given at least 55 per cent of seats in both houses of parliament to ensure a workable majority.

Following the vote, opposition centre-left senators held up copies of the constitution while senators on the right applauded and waved Italian tricolour flags.

The senate vote fell short of the two-thirds majority required for constitutional changes by both houses of parliament in Italy. The bill is not expected to obtain a majority in the lower house either, meaning that it will have to be put to a referendum.

Meloni claims that the Premierato would lead to stronger, more stable governments and end revolving door administrations in Italy which has had 68 governments since 1946.

However the opposition parties and critics of the plan say it could strip the parliament and president of important powers and could lead to a more authoritarian government.

The current system sees parties sit down for talks to form a government after a general election, with the ruling majority proposing an agreed prime ministerial candidate for approval from the Italian president.

Opposition parties demonstrated in Rome on Tuesday against the constitutional reform and another contentious move giving Italian regions greater autonomy, a plan that sparked a brawl in the parliament last week and which critics say could worsen Italy's north-south divide.

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