Italian PM Giorgia Meloni is meeting with opposition leaders to day to discuss constitutional reforms. She has already held talks with M5S leader Conte and Centrist Azione leader Calenda.
Centrist Azione party leader Carlo Calenda said after with Meloni today that any proposed Constitutional reforms should not touch the Italian president’s functions as arbiter of political life and guarantor of national unity. However, he was in favour of ‘indicating’ the premier as in mayoral elections.
Meloni put forward three options: the direct election of the president as head of government; the direct election of the president who has supreme power but then names a head of government, as in France; and the direct election of the premier as in Britain.
She is said to favour the last option.
Meloni has said she is determined to end Italy’s string of ‘lab-grown’ governments which featured unelected leaders. She also says she has a popular mandate to do so after her convincing September election win.
Calenda said after his talks with the PM: “We have defined the perimeter of intervention. For us there is an absolute red line that is the figure of the President of the Republic, the only institution that guarantees national unity; to touch it would be a serious mistake. We are in favour of the indication of the President of the Council on the model of the Mayor of Italy”.
Conte against all Meloni’s proposals
Ex premier and populist opposition 5-Star Movement (M5S) leader Giuseppe Conte came out against Meloni’s plans to change the Italian Constitution. Conte told reporters he was against all three options proposed by Meloni.
However, the M5S chief said he agreed with Meloni’s idea of setting up an ad hoc reform commission.
“The issue is that at least from this first meeting there was no agreement. We are for sensible solutions and also for a strengthening of the premier’s powers but within a balanced framework. One which does not mortify the parliamentary model, that is very useful for inclusiveness and favours conflict resolution. And we care a lot about the function of the President of the Republic which is a guarantee and serves national cohesion; he has a key role,” said Conte.
“We shared a diagnosis on some critical issues. We recognise these critical issues starting from the problem of the instability of the executive. It is a problem that we will have to solve as that guarantee to the parliament, but an agreement did not emerge”.
He added, “We are open as regards the method to dialogue in a parliamentary committee set up ad hoc. We recommend this path.”
Meloni said during her talks with Conte that reforms were needed for government stability and to ensure that governments reflected the wishes of the people in democratic elections.
The centre-right does not command the two thirds majority in parliament required for a Constitutional reform without a subsequent, ‘confirmative’ referendum. However, the premier could come close if centrist parties swing behind her proposals, as some have already said they will.
She has said she would prefer an agreement with the oppositions but has that key mandate to go it alone if she does not achieve a broad consensus.
Other party leaders still to meet Meloni
Meloni will meet later today with other opposition forces including the centre-left Democratic Party (PD). The PD is Italy’s second biggest party and its leader Elly Schlein has already said the PD is against the direct election of the president or the premier. Schlein has also said the institutional reform talks should not be used as a distraction from priority issues like the cost of living crisis, jobs, the post-COVID National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), and the state of the national health service.
Following talks with Conte, Meloni said she was precluding nothing apart from delaying tactics. She added she was open to Conte’s proposal of an ad hoc institutional reform commission but stressing that the forum for reform talks already existed in the shape of the Senate Constitutional affairs commission.
“The famous ‘everything changes so that nothing changes’ (from Tommaso de Lampedusa’s The Leopard) is not acceptable. But, if there are tools that allow us to do in a reasonable time what we have to do, we can deal with it.
It is understood that the proper forum already exists; it is Parliament, it is the Constitutional Affairs Commission, which does and has always done this work”, she said.
“I believe we can dialogue on everything as long as there are no delaying intentions,” the premier reiterated.