Italy's Draghi puts key justice reforms to confidence vote

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Virus Outbreak Italy (LaPresse)
Virus Outbreak Italy (LaPresse)

A last-minute pledge by a former Italian premier that populist 5-Star Movement lawmakers would back a key justice reforms bill appeared to assure its passage during a crucial confidence vote set for Monday night.

Italy’s current premier, Mario Draghi decided to risk the government's survival by putting the bill in the Chamber of Deputies, Parliament s lower house, to a confidence vote. The tactic is aimed at ending squabbling over the proposed reforms by parties in his nearly six-month-old government.

The justice system overhaul is a key element in a packet of reforms that Draghi has pledged Italy would enact as a condition of receiving generous European Union pandemic recovery funds.

In an indication of how fractious Italian political parties are, lawmakers have been bickering over the bill's provisions even though their parties' ministers in Draghi's coalition government formally approved the legislation last month.

Should the government lose Monday night's confidence vote, Draghi would be required to resign.

But the prospect of defeat appeared unlikely, since all of Parliament's major parties save one belong to Draghi's coalition.

But that prospect became even more remote on Monday when Draghi's predecessor in the premier's office, Giuseppe Conte pledged that the 5-Star Movement he seeks to formally lead would vote yes.

In a bid to win over some reluctant lawmakers, Draghi's justice minister revised some of the provisions, but some 5-Star lawmakers had still been voicing dissatisfaction.

For decades, Italy's slow-moving justice system, with its two levels of appeals, has been chastised by the EU and has alienated potential investors, who fear that any business dispute that winds up in court would leave them mired in legal battles for years. Many cases drag on for so long that statutes of limitations frequently expire.

The bill's latest version includes special provisions for the next few years on major crimes, to ensure that if a trial at any level lasts past its newly prescribed time, the case could continue to its end. Those crimes include terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking and sexual violence.

Even allowing for some 5-Star lawmakers to disobey Conte, the government went into the vote with a wide majority in the lower house.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill in September and could enact changes that would force a second passage of the bill in the lower Chamber.

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