\’More power for premier, \’Berlusconi

May 21 2009


Parliament ‘useless’, PM tells business body. Lower House Speaker Gianfranco Fini replies to Berlusconi’s attack: Parliament ‘neither useless nor counterproductive’

(ANSA) – Rome, May 21 – Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday reiterated plans to change the Italian constitution to give more powers to the premier at the expense of parliament.

”You have a government that is for the first time run by an entrepreneur and a team of ministers that resembles a company board in its efficiency, but we have to reckon with a legislature that must be modernised because the premier has virtually no power,” Berlusconi told the annual conference of employers’ federation Confindustria in response to calls to modernise Italy.

”(Confindustria Chairman) Emma (Marcegaglia) has asked us to use our majority to achieve reforms…but we are faced with infinite difficulties because of a bureaucracy that opposes everything,” said Berlusconi, who has in the past complained that he felt ”like a driver without a steering wheel”.

”I, who have always considered myself a revolutionary, believe that revolutions are easier than reforms,” he said.

A previous attempt by Berlusconi to increase the premier’s powers, in 2005, was defeated by a referendum the following year.

That reform would have made the premier a directly elected figure with the power to hire and fire ministers, propose that parliament be dissolved and call elections.

With the present system, only parliament can dismiss a minister via a no-confidence vote, while it is up to the president to dissolve parliament and call elections.

In order to achieve the change given parliamentary opposition, the premier said, a bill would have to be presented from outside parliament.

Under Italian law, bills can be proposed not only by MPs but also by groups of 50,000 citizens.

In Berlusconi’s view, this would resolve the problem of parliament having to vote to divest itself of power.

”You can’t expect turkeys to bring forward Christmas,” he said.

Despite holding sweeping majorities in both houses, Berlusconi issued a fresh attack on parliament as ”useless”. He also criticised the practice of parliamentary whips telling MPs which way to vote, implying that this potential obstacle to a reform-minded government could be removed if the premier had the power to dismiss parliament.

In a renewed criticism of the postwar constitution, he argued that the premier ”has no power because the constitution was written after the Fascist years and so all the power was given to parliament, not the premier”.

Berlusconi’s renewed criticism of parliament prompted a quick response from the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party (PD).

PD Senate whip Anna Finocchiaro pointed out that, ”like it or not, (parliament) is the place for legislative decisions” and that even bills proposed by citizens have to meet with parliamentary approval.

Lower House Speaker Gianfranco Fini replies to Berlusconi’s attack :

Parliament ‘neither useless nor counterproductive’

Italy’s parliament is ”neither useless nor counterproductive,” Lower House Speaker Gianfranco Fini said Thursday in reply to criticism of the assembly by Premier Silvio Berlusconi earlier in the day.

In an address to the national association of industrial employers Confindustria, the premier complained that his office had too little power because it was all in the hands of a parliament which he defined as a ”plethora”.

Parliaments like Italy’s, he added, ”are totally useless and even counterproductive”.

Fini later issued a statement in which he said that his assembly of 630 members ”can be criticised for being plethoric but it certainly cannot be defined as either useless or counterproductive”.

It would be ”unacceptable,” he added, to ”deprive parliament, which is an expression of the people’s sovereignty, of its function which includes controlling the performance of the government and exercising it legislative powers”.

In response to Berlusconi’s call to reduce the number of MPs, Fini recalled that this was a goal shared by both government and opposition parties.

In his address to Confindustria, Berlusconi said Italy’s parliament should be cut to 100 or so ”like the US Congress”, which he confused with the US Senate which has 100 members while the House of Representatives had 425.

Berlusconi also used his appearance at Confindustria’s annual assembly to renew his attack on the judiciary and said criticising judges was ”a right of every citizen”.

In regard to a recent sentence which found that Berlusconi’s former corporate lawyer David Mills perjured himself to protect his business empire, the premier said he remained ”outraged” over the ”scandalous” sentence and vowed to reform the judiciary.

Berlusconi did not to have stand trial in the same case because a law pushed through by his government gives immunity to the four highest offices of the state: the president, premier and two parliament speakers.

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