The Lower House of Italy’s Members of Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a measure to reduce the number of seats from 945 to 600. Of the 569 votes cast, 553 were in favor of the reduction. After its definitive approval, the bill has now become law. The constitutional reform cuts the number of Members of Parliament from 630 to 400 and Senators from 315 to 200. Since it was a constitutional bill, the majority of the Lower House, or 316 votes, was required. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called it “A historic day for Italy” and said the reform “impacts the cost of politics and makes the workings of the chambers more efficient.”
This was Italy’s eighth attempt to cut its number of lawmakers since 1983. The reduction, dubbed the taglia poltrone (armchairs cut) by Italian media, would provide an expected saving of $110 million per year. 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.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the ruling anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), which had made the MP cut one of its flagship reform pledges, said “this is a very great victory for citizens.”
Cabinet Secretary Riccardo Fraccaro, also of the M5S, said “It’s the day we’ve been awaiting forever. After almost 30 years of broken promises, the cut in MPs and Senators is a reality: a new political season is starting, now the citizens are at the center.”
The vote on the MP cut went smoothly with the opposition parties also voting for a long-awaited reform that will streamline government and make significant savings in parliamentary expenditure. Voting in favor were the M5S, the PD and the populist nationalist opposition parties the League and Brothers of Italy (FdI), as well as Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI) party.
After the final Lower House vote, there will be a confirmatory referendum, since the bill makes changes to the Italian constitution. The reduction would make the Italian parliament among the smaller ones in the European Union. At present, Italy has the third-highest number of lawmakers in the world, after China and the United Kingdom.