Italy votes to cut number of MPs and senators by more than a third

Italy's parliament on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to approve slashing the number of lawmakers in new constitutional reforms.

Italy votes to cut number of MPs and senators by more than a third
Italy's chamber of deputies in September 2019. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Italy currently has the second-highest number of lawmakers in the EU after Britain – some 630 elected representatives in the lower house and 315 in the Senate.

Cutting the total number of MPs and senators in Italy by 345 – a move dubbed the “taglia poltrone” by Italian media – was a flagship manifesto promise of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which is now in power as part of a coalition government, after promising voters it would tackle political elitism and wasteful spending.

The move, linked to broader electoral law reforms, was passed by 553 Mps, with just 14 voting against and two abstentions.

“It's done!” the M5S said on its blog. “Promise kept.”

The constitutional reform, which could be subjected to a popular referendum in the coming months, also needs to pass in Italy's upper house.

It cuts the number of MPs to 400 and senators to 200 from the next legislature, with an expected saving of some 100 million euros a year.

Five Star Movement leader and Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio. Photo: AFP

Italy currently has the second-highest number of lawmakers in the EU after Britain – some 630 elected representatives in the lower house and 315 in the Senate

Italy's current left-leaning government also hopes the planned constitutional reforms, which also include changes to electoral law, could help keep the populist right from power.

Critics have warned however that the cut could affect popular representation, and increase the influence of lobbyists over governing institutions – all for a minimal saving that will have little effect on debt-laden Italy's book balance.

Italy currently has one of the highest numbers of lawmakers in the EU – some 630 elected representatives in the lower house and 315 in the Senate.

Italy also has the third-highest number of lawmakers in the world, after China, which has nearly 3,000 members of parliament, and the UK, with a total of 1,443 (793 of which are unelected members of the House of Lords, or upper house).

This was Italy's eighth attempt to cut its number lawmakers since 1983, according to the Open news website.

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Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.