Italian lawmakers back overhaul to reduce their seats

World News

Italian Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, center, snatches a banner showing chairs after the approval of a bill to reduce the numbers of lawmakers, Tuesday Oct. 8, 2019. Italy’s parliament has approved a cut in the number of the country’s lawmakers, a long-awaited overhaul that aims at slashing political spending and has been longly advocated by the anti-establishment 5-Star movement. (Alessandro Di Meo/ANSA via AP)

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ROME (AP) — Italian lawmakers have backed a radical overhaul of the country’s parliament that will see around a third of them losing their job.

The long-awaited reform, overwhelmingly approved Tuesday by the lower house, will see the total number of lawmakers slashed by about a third, from 945 to 600.

The vote, which is the final one in the parliamentary process, was 553 votes in favor against 14 against.

Italy has the second-highest number of lawmakers in Europe after the U.K., with 630 elected lawmakers in the lower house and 315 in the Senate. The reform is set to be implemented after the next scheduled elections in 2023, though there are potentially further hurdles to clear, including a possible referendum.

The reduction was a flagship proposal of the anti-establishment 5-Stars, which in August forged an uneasy ruling coalition with the country’s center-left Democrats.

“For the first time we have seen lawmakers cutting their own seats,” said 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio.

Italy’s Premier Giuseppe Conte hailed the decision as “a historic day for Italy.”

Since their birth, the 5-Stars have pledged to tackle wasteful spending and say the cut will deliver savings of around 300,000 euros ($330,000) a day.

Critics say it’s a tiny saving in the grand scheme of things. Italy’s overall debt stands at around 130% of its annual GDP. Only Greece’s debt burden is higher among the 19 European Union countries that use the euro currency.

They also warn that cutting the chambers’ size could end up hindering democratic representation.

The overhaul, which was voted by both the ruling parties and most of the opposition, could still be challenged in a referendum, with opponents warning that it could favor powerful lobbies, giving them a stronger influence on a slimmer parliament.

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