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Italy holds referendum on major constitutional reform package

[JURIST] Italians headed to the polls Sunday to begin voting on a constitutional amendment package which would give more power to the prime minister and decrease the size of parliament, in the largest set of proposed changes to the Italian constitution [text] since its inception. Those in favor of the package say that expanding the prime minister's power will help calm a political landscape in Italy that has seen 61 different governments since World War II. But those opposing the changes, including newly-elected [JURIST report] Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi [official website, in Italian; BBC profile], say the proposals were introduced by the government of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], and will give too much power to the prime minister's office.

The amendment package would change 50 of the constitution's 139 articles and many of the changes would not actually take place for several years. Specific changes would allow the prime minister to appoint and fire cabinet members without presidential approval, give him the power to dissolve parliament, and give Italy's 20 regions the authority to govern health, security and education issues locally. The polls will remain open through Monday. AP has more.

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