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Italy high court holds part of election law unconstitutional

The Italian Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] on Wednesday ruled [materials, in Italian] that portions of the country's electoral law breach its constitution [text, PDF]. This decision overturns [Bloomberg report] both a measure in the law that prevents voters from choosing their parliamentary representative and one that gives extra seats to the party that receives the most votes. The law, which has been blamed [Bloomberg report] for much of the political instability within Italy's parliament since it was introduced in 2005, must be changed quickly, according to Angelino Alfanso, who serves as the country's Ministry of Interior [official website]. The ruling will not impact [Reuters report] the validity of the current parliament, but it will push Prime Minister Enrico Letta [BBC profile] to hasten his plan to rewrite the law, which the government previously planned to change by the end of 2014. The court's decision is set to take effect when it is published in the upcoming weeks.

The decision by the Italian Constitutional Court will force Enrico Letta to take on one of his first challenges as newly appointed Italian Prime Minister, after the Italian Senate [official website, in Italian] voted last week to expel Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who originally wrote the electoral law at issue, from parliament, following his conviction [JURIST report] for tax fraud. In October a senate panel voted in favor [JURIST report] of expelling Berlusconi from his seat in parliament. Also in October, an Italian court prohibited Berlusconi from running for office for two years [JURIST report] due to his tax fraud conviction. In August Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation [official website, in Italian] upheld [JURIST report] Berlusconi's four-year prison sentence for tax fraud. In addition to the fraud charges, Berlusconi, who stepped down as prime minister last November, has faced a number of criminal charges including publicly releasing private wiretaps, embezzlement and paying for sex with an underage prostitute [JURIST reports].

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