ROM (AP) – A short-term pledge from a former Italian prime minister that lawmakers of the populist 5-star movement would support a major judicial reform bill appeared to secure its passage during a crucial confidence vote scheduled for Monday evening.
Italy’s current Prime Minister Mario Draghi decided to risk the government’s survival by putting the bill in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of parliament. The tactic aims to end the dispute over the reform proposals of the parties in his nearly six-month-old government.
The overhaul of the judicial system is a key element in a package of reforms that Draghi has pledged to enact Italy as a condition of receiving generous funding to restore the European Union’s pandemic.
An indication of how divided the Italian political parties are, lawmakers are arguing over the provisions of the bill despite the fact that ministers of their parties in Draghi’s coalition government officially approved the law last month.
Should the government lose the vote of confidence on Monday evening, Draghi would have to resign.
But the prospect of defeat seemed unlikely, as all but one of the major parties in parliament belong to Draghi’s coalition.
But that prospect was further distant on Monday when Draghi’s predecessor in the prime minister’s office, Giuseppe Conte, promised that the 5-star movement he would officially lead would vote yes.
To win over some reluctant lawmakers, Draghi’s Justice Minister revised some of the provisions, but some 5-star lawmakers still expressed dissatisfaction.
Italy’s sluggish judicial system, with its two levels of appeal, has been reprimanded by the EU for decades, alienating potential investors who fear that a business dispute that ends in court could entangle them in litigation for years. Many cases drag on for so long that limitation periods often expire.
The latest version of the bill contains specific provisions on serious crimes for the next several years to ensure that the trial can continue to its end if a trial at any level goes beyond the newly mandated time. These crimes include terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking and sexual violence.
Even when some 5-star lawmakers disobeyed Conte, the government went to the vote with a large majority in the lower house.
The Senate is expected to take up the bill in September and could pass changes that would force a second passage of the bill in the House of Commons.
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