Opposition parties gang up on Meloni as she tries to push through reforms

“Enough with divisions!”, Elly Schlein, leader of Italy’s Democratic Party told the crowd as she took to the stage on Tuesday in central Rome. The protest was organised by opposition parties against Meloni’s ambitious new government reforms. What started as a one-off protest might however define a new political strategy against Meloni’s government.

Meloni’s right-wing coalition has pushed through two key reforms that, if passed, represent an ambitious overhaul of the Italian constitution. One is the direct election of the Italian prime minister – an ambitious project that has only ever been tested in Israel – which won the Senate’s approval on Tuesday.

The other is granting Italy’s regions more political power – the consolidation of which resulted in a brawl in the Italian parliament.

In a rare show of unity Italy’s main opposition parties joined forces against the reforms. Giuseppe Conte, the leader of the 5 Star movement, called the unified protest “the best answer” to the ruling majority, attacking both proposals.

Devolution of power raises questions

The reform, which would devolve power to regional authorities, became law on Wednesday. It was one of the League party’s flagship proposals with Matteo Salvini trying to regain support in some of its northern strongholds.

The law not only caused a scuffle in parliament but attracted wider criticism that it would deepen the divide between the country’s wealthy north and poorer south.

However, those who staged a demonstration on Tuesday think that the so-called “Mother of all reforms”, as Meloni called it is more concerning than the rest. The direct election of a prime minister has already won the Senate’s approval and begun an uncertain path towards becoming law.

“The reform on the direct election of Italy’s PM is unacceptable,” said a woman in the crowd. Several protesters expressed their support for Italy’s opposition parties.

talian Democratic Party leader Elly Schlein meets the media following the European Election in Rome, Monday, June 10, 2024.

Meloni’s government defends their proposed constitutional changes as a means to achieve government stability, strengthen the prime minister’s role and allow Italians more say in who governs their country.

Several lawmakers doubt that the reform would bring the desired results, with others warning about the risk of a diminished role for both Italy’s parliament and for the Italian President.

The direct election of a prime minister is unusual – only Israel has tried and failed, to introduce such a system in the 1990s.

Changing Italy’s constitution is a lengthy process in which both houses of parliament must approve the change twice – with a two-thirds majority required for the final two votes.

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