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Italy to hold hearing on electoral law in January

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Italy to hold hearing on electoral law in January
The Quirinale presidential palace. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
17:14 CET+01:00
Italy will hold a hearing on its electoral law in late January, the Constitutional Court announced on Tuesday.

The January 24th hearing, to debate the legitimacy of Italy's current electoral law (Italicum), will likely be an important factor in when general elections will be held following PM Matteo Renzi's resounding referendum defeat.

It's not clear when there will be a definitive ruling on Italicum, but this is the latest sign that elections could happen sooner than expected. Hearings had initially been scheduled for September this year, then October, but were postponed to avoid interference with the referendum.

The electoral law is the big obstacle to holding elections; it is designed to apply only to the lower house of parliament, because the Senate was set to be redesigned under Renzi's proposed constitutional reforms.

Now that those reforms have failed, president Sergio Mattarella is highly unlike to call elections until the electoral law has been updated.

Italy's two largest opposition parties, the Five Star Movement and Northern League, are also both pushing for early elections.

The Five Star Movement had initially called for immediate elections - despite having campaigned vigorously against the electoral law over recent months. On Tuesday, one of its leading MPs, Luigi Di Maio, said the party wanted new elections under a "corrected" version of Italicum, updated to apply to the Senate as well.

"All you need is a five-line correction," he said.

And there are signs that the Democratic Party is gearing up for an election in the near future, despite the overwhelming support for the No camp in the referendum, which has been widely interpreted as a protest vote against Renzi's administration.

Earlier on Tuesday, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said he expected general elections to take place in February, speaking to Italian daily Il Corriere following a meeting with Renzi.

Renzi is set to tender his resignation as soon as possible; he agreed to Mattarella's request that he stay on until the 2017 budget was passed, "out of a sense of responsibility", and has scheduled a debate on the budget for Wednesday.

The budget has already won a vote of confidence in Italy's lower house of parliament, and now just needs Senate approval. 

Once that has been achieved, Mattarella will be free to name a new Prime Minister, with Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan one of the front-runners for the position.

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