by Alessandra Cardone
ROME, May 1 (Xinhua) -- The European Parliament elections, scheduled from May 22 to 25 in all European Union (EU) member states, appears to have an unexpected result in Italy: a visible slowdown of the reform agenda.
As tension among parties grows with the campaign, analysts highlight how the ambitious plan of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's cabinet has partially come to a halt, especially with regard to the most "political" of overhauls such as senate reform and a new electoral law.
Renzi had put his own credibility at stake on their swift approval, repeatedly declaring he wanted both reforms to be passed before May 25. Yet, the path has turned out to more complicated.
"During the weekend we have seen the start of mediation over senate reform, which might be a signal that Renzi is developing a more reflexive attitude on the issue of reforms," Stefano Folli, political editorialist with leading business daily Il Sole24 Ore, told Xinhua.
He said the submission of the senate reform draft bill in parliament was postponed after Renzi held informal talks with President Giorgio Napolitano and consultations with Constitutional Reforms Minister Maria Elena Boschi and senators from his Democratic Party (PD).
Although Renzi reaffirmed he would resign if institutional reforms were not approved, he played down the relevance of this adjournment. On Tuesday, he said he would expect the draft to get a first reading approval by June 10, which means after the European vote.
According to analysts, President Napolitano clearly played a key role in this delay.
"Napolitano's request to meet Renzi was not unusual, but it gave us the sense of the current political situation under the electoral campaign, which is certainly more complicated," Giovanni Orsina, deputy director of the school of government at LUISS-Guido Carli University in Rome, told Xinhua.
The two main reforms have a long way to go before being adopted. The new electoral law was passed by Italy's lower house in March, but awaits final approval by senators. The senate reform, which would demote the upper house into a non-elected assembly, is yet to be presented as a final draft.
Opposition forces, some members of Renzi's PD party as well as renowned constitutional experts asked for changes in both reforms. The current slowdown "imposed" by the electoral campaign, therefore, could serve as a useful pause to adjust them.
"I think the electoral campaign was just a pretext, not the real reason of this slowdown. The point is that both reform drafts have some major flaws, which resulted from the rush of the cabinet's action," Paolo Feltrin, political sciences professor with the University of Trieste, explained to Xinhua.
Renzi's appointment was based on the promise of a swift approval of major reforms and therein lies his main strength, Feltrin said.
Nonetheless, an institutional overhauling cannot be done in a matter of few weeks and this pause was "absolutely needed" in order to fix some crucial aspects.
A pressing question now is whether the EU vote will put reforms at risk. The elections will be seen in Italy also as a popular verdict over the cabinet, and analysts seem divided in their forecasts.
According to Stefano Folli, a lot will depend on the vote. "The political balance is now based on two conditions: the unity and strength of Renzi's PD party, and the deal on reforms reached by Renzi and center-right opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi," he said.
Both PD and Berlusconi's Forza Italia parties need to get good results and not be overcome by the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement (M5S). Otherwise, reforms would be at risk, according to Folli.
Professor Feltrin foresees less uncertainty. "Institutional reforms concern less than 1 percent of voters in Italy, and I don't think this slowdown will weigh on voters' minds," he underlined.
Other freshly implemented reforms would provide incentive for voters such as tax cuts for lower earners or the reduction to public managers' salaries. Therefore, PM Renzi and his cabinet's action may well be rewarded in the coming ballot, Feltrin said.