Italian President Sergio Mattarella not only has a degree in constitutional law, but was also a former Judge of the country’s Constitutional Court. As such he is more than aware of the constitutional requirements after former Prime Minster Matteo’s Renzi’s (The rise of Matteo Renzi three years ago) resignation Sunday night following the loss of the Constitutional referendum. The consultations of the relevant institutional authorities and the parliamentary parties are never easy, but on this occasion, they are particularly complicated.


The consultations now taking place are a sign of weakness of a Constitution that was drawn up in the wake of World War 2 to avoid the possibility of new dictatorships in Italy.

These so-called “government crises” often do not create long-term solutions to government instability as we have seen with 64 governments in less than 70 years.

The deeply fractured parliament has made forming stable coalitions difficult. In addition, the opposition parties, aided by some unwise comments by Renzi himself, turned the referendum (Italy’s citizens rejected proposed constitutional changes) into a plebiscite on his government. Finally, the many doubts on the present electoral law now under review by the Constitutional Court means that, subject to the decision of the Court on January 21st, it is not possible to go to the polls in the near future.

These circumstances have increased the possibility of a short-term government formed with the express intention of amending the electoral law and meeting the country’s upcoming international obligations.

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At the present time nobody knows who will be nominated by Mattarella to form a government, or if he or she will obtain the confidence of the two chambers of parliament as required by the constitution, but it does allow us to look at some aspects of the country’s political system that require attention.

The opposition to the referendum did not look so much at the nature of the amendments, but mainly on the character of the Prime Minister and used this as the basis for their No vote. Although these parties agree that the Constitution and the Italian parliamentary system require amendments to make forming governments and drafting laws more efficient, they failed to give any constructive suggestions on what they themselves would do to redesign the system of government. Worse still, there is a deep split between these parties about the form of the new electoral law that they support which will make the task of drafting a new law even more difficult.

Tactics of disruption

The Movimento 5 Stelle which has been a disruptive force in parliament in this legislature and led the referral of the current electoral law to the Court has even gone as far as to propose extending this law to the Senate and not only to the Chamber of Deputies.

This behaviour is at best inconsistent and at worst a hypocritical attempt of winning the next election by any means necessary.

In relation to the Movimento, their tactics may also be an attempt to force an election before the decision of the magistracy in relation to at least two cases of forged signatures to nominate candidates for election that would have a drastic effect on their image as they had entered parliament on the basis of “honest government”.

The opposition parties centered around the aging Silvio Berlusconi, beginning with his Forza Italia Party, are in a period of transition during which the magnate continues to seek the political limelight, even though the parties are at an all time low of popularity.

Unfortunately, last weekend’s referendum loss probably means that for at least the next few years no political leader will have the courage to reform a system that requires urgent attention. The opponents of the referendum have shown they have no solution to these problems and the Partito Democratico has to look at its own leadership before deciding whether or not it will try once more to propose these amendments. #Referendum Italy #Matteo Renzi #Silvio Berlusconi