ROME Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's constitutional reform will increase bureaucracy and plunge Italy into institutional chaos, the main opposition party warned on Monday as it stepped up its campaign ahead of a referendum on the proposals.
Renzi says his plan to reduce the role of the Senate and centralise power will simplify decision making, but the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement told foreign reporters it will have exactly the opposite effect.
"The result of the reform would be chaos," said Luigi Di Maio, the 30-year-old lower house deputy widely tipped to be 5-Star's candidate for prime minister at the next election.
Di Maio said the Senate, which will no longer be directly elected and whose members will be cut to 100 from 315, will keep full legislative powers on issues related to the European Union and other key areas, and will be able to hold up many laws.
The reform will introduce eight different legislative procedures depending on the issues being discussed, the deputy speaker of the chamber of deputies added, creating confusion and disputes between the two houses of parliament.
Renzi says the current system, by which laws must be passed in the same form by both houses, is slow and cumbersome, but Di Maio said Italy already had far more laws that its EU peers and speeding up lawmaking was "a false problem".
"We pass a new law every five days and speeding that up will just increase bureaucracy," he told the foreign press association in Rome. "We need fewer and better laws, not more laws approved more quickly."
Di Maio and other 5-Star representatives described Renzi's reform as an attempted power grab conceived in 2014 when his Democratic Party (PD) had a commanding lead in opinion polls, but which now looked like back-firing on the premier.
Renzi has said he will resign and quit politics if he loses the Dec. 4 referendum, and a large majority of opinion polls over the past month have put the "no" camp ahead.
Di Maio said the reform will do nothing to solve the real problems facing Italy's institutions, such as endemic corruption, conflicts of interests among lawmakers and their widespread practice of jumping from one party to another.
The 5-Star Movement is running neck-and-neck with the PD in most opinion polls, which also show 5-Star would be the most likely winner under the two-round voting system introduced by Renzi last year. The next election is due in 2018.
A Rome court is expected to rule later on Monday on a case brought by opposition parties who say the question as presented on the ballot sheet should be changed because it cites only popular aspects of the reform and none of the less popular ones.
(Editing by Alison Williams)