Italian government struggles to pass reform Bill ahead of confidence vote


WITH A vital confidence vote just two weeks away, the Italian government yesterday suffered potentially indicative setbacks when it was twice defeated in the Lower House on amendments to a Bill on education reform.

Although the government finally saw the Bill through the Lower House late last night, the earlier defeats suggest that when both houses of parliament debate confidence motions on December 14th, the vote is sure to be a close-run thing.

Yesterday’s reverses came against the background of nationwide protests from students who argue that the Bill introduced by education minister Mariastella Gelmini is much more a cost-cutting exercise than a true reform.

Traffic in central Rome was brought to a standstill as the student protesters clashed with police who blocked off access to the square in front of the Italian Lower House in Piazza Montecitorio. For a short while, the clashes became violent as the 3,000-strong student body threw eggs, tomatoes and smoke bombs at the police, whilst also trying to overturn a police van. Riot police replied with tear gas before charging the students, who shortly afterwards dispersed.

Similar protests against the Gelmini reform took place all over Italy with Bari, Bologna, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Trieste, Turin, Udine and Venice all experiencing severe traffic disruption due to city centre protests.

Last week, students highlighted their protest by staging symbolic “occupations” of national monuments such as Tower of Pisa, the Coliseum in Rome, Piazza San Marco in Venice and Florence Cathedral.