Italy highest court gives go ahead to political reform referendum

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (left) speaks to Minister for Constitutional Reforms and Parliamentary Relations Maria Elena Boschi at a news conference in Rome, on Sept 1, 2014.
Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (left) speaks to Minister for Constitutional Reforms and Parliamentary Relations Maria Elena Boschi at a news conference in Rome, on Sept 1, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME (REUTERS) - Italy's highest court on Monday (Aug 8) gave a green light to a national referendum that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says will guarantee political stability and on which he has staked his future.

The Court of Cassation ruled positively on the validity of the more than 500,000 signatures needed by law for a referendum to be held.

The government, which says the changes will bring about political stability, has 60 days to choose a date. It is expected to be held between October and December.

Both houses of parliament approved the proposed reforms, which will effectively abolish the Senate as an elected chamber, in April, but changes to Italy's 1948 republican constitution must be put to a popular referendum.

Renzi has said constitutional changes are the only way to strengthen political stability and end decades of revolving-door governments that have made it difficult to revive the country's debt-ridden economy. He has promised to resign if the referendum goes against him.

On Friday, credit ratings agency DBRS said it was placing Italy under review with negative implications because of political uncertainty around the referendum, pressure on banks, a fragile economic recovery and a less stable external environment.