Let's start by saying that the cut in the number of parliamentarians does not begin with this legislature, but has been proposed over time by almost all the political forces now sitting in Parliament. Without going too far back in time, we would like to point out that the reduction in the number of parliamentarians was the objective of the 2006 centre-right reform (rejected by the Italians in the referendum of 25 and 26 June), but also of the one set by Renzi in 2016 (also rejected by the Italians on 4 December). Of course, both reforms included the reduction of parliamentarians in overall plans, but it should not be forgotten that the text on which the voters will be called to vote on 20 and 21 September is practically identical to the one proposed in 2008 by Senators Zanda and Finocchiaro, which provided for the reduction to 400 deputies and 200 senators. In short, to make a long story short: all political forces have always been in favour of a reduction in the number of parliamentarians, on the point there is a broad convergence that has never materialised just because the change in the number of parliamentarians has always been inserted in wider contexts. In this sense, the supporters of the Yes underline how this Parliament has expressed almost unanimity with regard to the cut, expressing a unambiguous will which it would be right to take into account. It is paradoxical that almost all of the more than seventy senators who signed up for the referendum then voted yes to the reform in the parliamentary passages.
REASON FOR NO
The reduction of parliamentarians were confirmed, Italy would go from about 96 thousand inhabitants per deputy to about 151 thousand per deputy, and our country would end up in the last place in Europe as regards the representativeness of the lower chamber, which in Italy is the chamber of deputies.
In the absence of an overall reform of representation, or at least of the corrective measures to the cut that was part of the government agreement between M5S and Pd - which, however, starting from the new electoral law, have remained a dead letter until now - the result would be to partially sterilize the parliament's ability to represent the people. And parliament is the only body of the state that the people represent them directly because they are elected by the people. Whether this is good or bad is one of the issues that should be reflected in now. But this does not happen.
The victory of the parties
Thus one cannot fail to notice that, in the face of a clear and now almost structural inability of politics to provide answers to the open questions in the country, that same politics, instead of improving itself - for example by better choosing who to send to parliament - decides to partially dismantle parliament itself.
In short, what happens is that faced with its own shortcomings, politics reacts by diminishing the capacity of the institution representing the people, thus guaranteeing itself even more power than it does today. And this happens paradoxically on the wave of an anti-political sentiment that many - including some of the more influential press - have fuelled over the last two decades. So, if the cut was confirmed by the popular vote, it would really be a success for what in other times would have been called the party crazy.
This does not happen now and out of nowhere but finds its root in the early 1990s. It was then that the great popular parties were wiped out, some by corruption investigations and others by history. It was then that a more liquid and leader-linked type of political organization emerged, for which communication played a fundamental role and which replaced ideas with a membership of real consortia. It is there, in the direct call of the leader to the people, without the mediation of the parties, that lies the origin of the populist wave that in the following years swelled. It is no coincidence that in the same year's parliamentary democracy was in fact "presidentialised", even though the constitution had not changed.
All this, together with many other elements such as the progressive devolution of portions of its function towards Europe or the regions, contributed to the constant erosion of the role of parliament as a legislator and as a place of politics. This is demonstrated by the increasing recourse to decrees by the government and the increasingly frequent intervention of the judiciary as an indirect legislator through the interpretation of the law. The judicial route to civil rights is, in this perspective, part of the great story of the malfunctioning of politics; malfunctioning of politics, precisely, and not of parliament, which, however, was eventually affected by this process.
The power of leadership is politically enormous. Reducing the number of parliamentarians would increase that power even more...
If this is the case, then there are also some strictly political consequences that a possible cut in parliamentarians could have. Even now, for example, the power of leadership is already enormous politically. And, over and above the lack of intellectual autonomy that has long been very evident in the belly of the parties, if the number of parliamentarians was to decrease, that power would increase even more. This would reduce the freedom of individual parliamentarians to very little, making it even more difficult to establish internal dissidence and misaligned thinking.
In this way, we would increasingly end up unduly transferring to parliament a relationship of strength which, while legitimate within the individual parties, is no longer legitimate when it concerns subjects, such as parliamentarians, who should each represent the whole country. In constitutional terms, this means that there is a risk that the prohibition of the mandate constraint could be circumvented in substance, or at least made easier. A result that would probably not displease the political leaders who, in different forms, have sought it in the past, from Berlusconi to Renzi to Grillo.
In absolute terms, this could even end up negatively affecting the balance, already tampered with for some time, between the powers of the state. One need only think of the relationship between government and parliament which, as provided for in the constitution, is based on the trust that the latter places in the former. In the future, parliamentarians may find themselves having to respond with less and less chance of disagreeing with the orders of the Prime Minister, who is usually also the leader of the majority party. In short, it would end up consolidating a partial reversal of that relationship, which has dangerously been going on for some time.
There does not seem to be enough quid pro quo to justify all this. There is neither from a functional point of view nor from the point of view of economic savings. Savings, in fact, would be ridiculous both in absolute terms and in relation to what we risk compromising on the political and institutional level.
REASON FOR YES
One element that qualifies the Yes campaign is quite simple: 945 MPs (+ lifetime senators) are too many. A note spread by M5s explains that the high number of deputies and senators makes legislative work more difficult, because it "inevitably leads to greater fragmentation among various parliamentary groups, which sometimes do not represent the main political forces in the country but small groups that only serve to organize the survival on the seat". A smaller number of parliamentarians would also reduce the groups, reducing "the risk of an endless and too jagged debate", both in the Chamber and in the parliamentary committees.
Saving the cost of politics
A central element of the campaign for the Yes is the savings resulting from the reduction in the number of elected representatives. In fact, cutting the number of members of parliament also means saving on allowances, expenses for the exercise of the mandate and reimbursement of expenses for senators and deputies, as well as reducing, albeit to a small extent, the fixed costs of the House and Senate. It is not easy to make an estimate of the lower costs: here AGI quantifies in about 80 million per year the savings deriving from the changeover to 600 members of parliament (to which other indirect costs would be added), for a total of about 400 million per legislature; the analysis of Cottarelli's Public Accounts Observatory, on the other hand, shows how it is necessary to separate from this figure the taxes and contributions paid by parliamentarians to the State (which would therefore fall), bringing the savings to about 57 million per year, for a total of 285 million euros per legislature. In both cases, explain the supporters of the Yes, we are faced with considerable savings, which would also represent a sign of the seriousness and morigrancy of a policy that is finally able to reform itself.
Less parliamentarians to work better
A small number of parliamentarians would also have an impact on the timing and dynamics of the work, in the reading of the Yes supporters. This is because the work in the Commissions would also be speeded up, which often leads to delays and hindrances more than the work in the Chamber (where, in any case, time is limited). On the other hand, the slowness of the legislative process is one of the endemic problems in our country, as highlighted by the OpenPolis report, which shows that in Italy the time needed to approve a law can vary from 6 to 17 months.