ITALY - The conclusive vote on the pension reform, widely expected in the lower chamber of parliament today, has been postponed under request of governing coalition member the Northern League.

A swift end to the 18-month pension reform saga, which yesterday seemed close to a final vote, has been postponed to next week, when parliament is also expected to vote on federal reforms.

The future of the two reforms seems to have become interlocked in the Italian political arena.

The Welfare Ministry, which yesterday confirmed the bill would be presented to the lower chamber today, told IPE the changed agenda came after a meeting of lower chamber leaders.

The outcome of the meeting, attended by representatives of all the parties, was that next week’s agenda, instead of this week’s, should be discussed. The decision was started by the Northern League but has been endorsed by the government coalition.

Dario Galli, the NL’s representative on the Labour Committee, said: “It is not a question of blackmail, it is a question of being transparent and pragmatic.”

The League, he explained, was demanding the promises of federal as well as pension reforms made with Forza Italia, Alleanza Nazionale and Unione di Centro, Udc be kept.

But Udc had presented amendments to the federal reforms bill, which had been seen by the League as hostile.

The vote on the pension reform has been scheduled for next week, when the federal reform is also due to be discussed, to “make it clear to the voters who wants to make reforms and who says to want reforms but does not make them”

“The pension reform is fine by us, even if mostly it will cost sacrifices to Northern workers, our voters. But this reform must come together with the whole reform-packet” Galli said.

“If we pass the pension reform to sort out the public accounts in the short term, but we do not do enough to change things in the long term, we effectively use one piece of the country to tidy up the rest of the country for a little while,” he added.

A spokesman for the Udc said the party was hoping for a “quick closure” of the matter.