The reformed Costitution

A work-in-progress Parliament

In spite of the Covid-19 emergency, Italian citizens, in a careful but still vulnerable climate, were able to express their orientation regarding the Confirmatory Referendum issued pursuant art. 138 of the Italian Constitution on the reduction of the number of Member of Parliament. This is an ancient issue, already discussed during the work of the Constituent Assembly, which established on September 23, 1947 what today, and for a short time still, is the composition of the Italian Parliament.


The Italian Constitution is susceptible to modifications: this possibility is in fact sanctioned by art.138 Cost.

Such practice meets however some limits; the "explicit limit" is the one provided by art.139 Cost., according to which the republican form of our order cannot be in any way object of constitutional revision. Instead, the fundamental principles and inviolable rights contained in the first 12 articles  constitute "implicit limits".

The only way to modify the Constitution is the approval of a constitutional revision law, which differs from the constitutional law, suitable instead to integrate it.

Both the Constitutional Law and the Constitutional Revision Law shall be subject to the procedure provided for in Art. 138 (1): both shall be adopted by each Chamber with two successive deliberations at intervals of not less than three months, and shall be approved by an absolute majority of the members of each Chamber in the second vote.

The confirmatory constitutional referendum, like the one called on September 20 and 21 in Italy, unlike what is regulated for the abrogative referendum, provided by art. 57 of the Constitution, does not provide for the achievement of a quorum of validity: this implies that the referendum result is in any case valid regardless of the percentage of participation of the voters.


On September 20 and 21, 2020, Italian voters were called to answer the referendum question showed:



With a turnout of 53, 8% of those entitled won the SI.

But let's proceed with order.

In the Official Gazette of October 12, 2019 was published the text of the Constitutional Law "AMENDMENTS TO ARTICLES 56,57 AND 59 OF THE CONSTITUTION IN THE REDUCTION OF PARLIAMENTARIES" (General Series n.240) which consists of 4 articles. The text was approved by the Senate, in second vote, with the absolute majority of its members, in the sitting of July 11, 2019, and by the Chamber of Deputies, in second vote, with the majority of two thirds of its members, in the sitting of October 8, 2019.

The law provides for the reduction of the number of Members of Parliament: from 630 to 400 deputies and from 315 to 200 elected senators. Articles 56, second paragraph, and 57, second paragraph, of the Constitution are amended for this purpose.

The text also intervenes on the constitutional provision of Art. 57, third paragraph, which identifies a minimum number of senators for each Region. In addition, the maximum number of lifetime senators of presidential nomination is set at five, while the current constitutional provision regarding former Presidents of the Republic who are senators by right for life remains unchanged (Art. 59 of the Constitution). Finally, art. 4 regulates the entry into force of the new provisions of the law by providing that they shall apply from the date of the first dissolution or first cessation of the chambers following the day of entry into force of the constitutional law and in any case not earlier than 60 days from that date.

The logic behind this reform is to skim the number of seats in the Italian Parliament, with the consequent reduction of costs related to politics. The supporters of the Reform, the 5-Star Movement first and foremost, have also relied on the conviction that a "leaner" Parliament would result in greater efficiency in its functioning.

The reasons for the reform are therefore manifold.



EU parliamentarians. The difference between Lower Room and Upper Room, where present.

Italy is today in second place in the ranking of European countries for the total number of members of the Chambers. But in regards to the representation, i.e. the number of Members of Parliament every 100,000 inhabitants, Italy counts one deputy every 96,000 inhabitants and one senator, not counting the senators for life, every about 188,500 inhabitants. On the basis of this consideration, Italy today occupies the 24th place in the ranking of the lower chambers, and with the reform will be placed in last place. With regard to the upper chambers, the reformed Italy will become second-to-last on a par with Poland.


From the Italian Observatory of Public Accounts directed by Carlo Cottarelli came the denial about the declaration of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Di Maio on the saving of 500 million euros per legislature. Considering that the real savings for the State must be calculated net and not before taxes and contributions paid by MePs to the State itself, considering a net allowance of 5 thousand euros per month for each parliamentarian, to which all tax-exempt reimbursements must be added, the annual savings obtained with the reform is reduced to 37 million for the House and 20 million for the Senate. The total net savings are therefore equal to 57 million per year and 285 million per legislature, a figure significantly lower than that emphasized by the supporters of the reform and equal to just 0.007% of Italian public spending.


The amputatory surgery of the cut of the MePs causes a decrease in representation: that is, it leads to having more citizens represented by a single elected person. In detail, it goes from a ratio of 1/64 thousand to a ratio of 1/101 thousand. This, however, does not take us outside the "norm" of the large European countries: France, Germany and Holland have in fact worse ratios and the United Kingdom has a very similar one. The cutting involves the revision of parliamentary regulations. In addition, the effects of the reform on the composition of the Parliament in joint session on the election of the President of the Republic, the election of the members of the Constitutional Court, the Superior Council of the Judiciary and the constitutional revision process itself will have to be reflected upon.



It is now necessary to proceed with the reform of the electoral law. While the League continues to push for a reform of the law based on the majority system, which sees Matteo Salvini as the promoter of a system for 75% majority and 25% proportional, the Democratic Party and the 5-star Movement remain supporters of the proportional system of German inspiration, strongly criticized by the center-right as it seems not to guarantee governability. The Germanicum provides for: the abolition of single-member colleges, a 5% threshold and the introduction of the right of tribune, i.e. the possibility left to smaller parties to obtain seats, thus "circumventing" the threshold. Then the completely majority part of the electoral system disappears, so the single-member constituencies disappear. For the moment there do not seem to be any changes in the formation of lists that therefore remain "blocked". To date, the electoral law assumes a pre-eminent importance in the structure of our system, representing the main instrument to ensure democracy in our country.

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  • L'Autore

    Sonia Todisco


From the World Europe Sections Society Law


Referendum Riforma Costituzione Italia Informazione news 2020

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